2014 Legislative Roundup
What’s Happened, What’s Happening & What Might Happen
By Raanan Geberer
A quote often attributed to the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck in the mid-1800s says something to the effect that laws are like sausages—it’s better not to see either of them being made. It’s a clever quip, and it’s not entirely inaccurate, but the truth is that if you serve on the board of your condo, co-op, or homeowners association, or if you manage any kind of multifamily community, you should have at least some awareness of the laws and legislation affecting you, your neighbors, and the residents you serve. This awareness not only enables you to do your job better, but it can help save your community money by planning in advance, avoiding fines, and keeping compliant with emerging regulations. With the state legislature is in session in Albany once again, there are many housing bills on the agenda. Some of them deal directly with co-ops and condos, while many more impact all types of housing, including co-ops and condos.
A Fistful of Bills
Albany isn’t the only legislative arena where housing is considered in New York, of course; housing-related measures are also often introduced in the New York City Council. Even where the Council doesn’t have power over a particular issue, it sometimes passes resolutions urging the legislators in Albany—or even those in Washington, D.C.—to adopt a particular position. And the opinions of people in most important city in the world carry considerable weight.
The website of the state Assembly, one of the two houses of the state legislature (the other being the state Senate) has a “bill search” feature. When this writer typed in “housing” in March, 350 bills came up (many of these bills also have counterparts before the Senate). Some are specific to one particular agency—quite a few deal with the beleaguered New York City Housing Authority. Others deal with one geographical location, such as a bill for affordable housing in the city of Yonkers. Many deal with rent increases, senior housing or tax credits.
If one searches for “condo,” one, at the time this article is being written, will find 54 bills. Many of these bills deal with important issues for Cooperator readers. For example, A00305 would mandate that in co-op and condo conversions, the majority of the board members must be shareholders or owners. Another, A08971, also S02291 in the Senate, would enact a condo owners’ bill of rights. Still another, A00034, the same as S03152 in the Senate, would create an office of “cooperative and condominium ombudsman.” Yet another, A00372, would create a special co-op and condo part in the New York City Housing Court.
If you search for “co-op,” 17 bills come up. Several deal with warehousing of co-op apartments, a common problem. One would authorize the voluntary dissolution of Mitchell-Lama co-ops. And three deal specifically with Co-op City in the Bronx.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-81, Bronx) says that the Housing Committee tends to avoid many co-op-related bills “because many of these issues can be addressed internally by co-op boards, and rather than the Assembly meddling in their business, their own elected boards can take actions themselves.”
A search of the City Council website as this article was being written in March showed fewer housing bills than in Albany. Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums (CNYC), explained, “We’re in a new City Council term that started in January. It is very early in the year.”
There are several issues that housing-related organizations are following on this year. Michael Slattery, senior vice president of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), says REBNY is keeping a close eye on the Brownfields Cleanup program and the proposed tax incentives for Lower Manhattan. Brownfields are former industrial sites where toxic materials have polluted the soil. These…