Month: August 2014

What’s Happened, What’s Happening & What Might Happen

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.”

Key Issues

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…

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Health Department Conducts the Largest No-Notice Emergency Response Exercise in New York City History

Health Department Conducts the Largest No-Notice Emergency Response Exercise in New York City History

The exercise is the most comprehensive, no-notice test of the Health Department’s ability to respond to large-scale public health emergencies

August 1, 2014 – Today, the Health Department is conducting the largest no-notice emergency response exercise in New York City history that will test our ability to respond to the release of a biological agent. Called RAMPEx, which stands for Rapid Activation for Mass Prophylaxis Exercise, the exercise involves notifying and deploying over 1,500 staff from more than a dozen City agencies and setting up 30 temporary locations that would be used to rapidly dispense life-saving medication in the event of an emergency. The majority of participants in today’s exercise were given no notice, meaning most participants were not informed of the day or time of the exercise, in order to better test and simulate a real emergency and response.

“The NYC Health Department is responsible for developing and executing plans for the mass dispensing of life-saving medicine in response to public health emergencies,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, First Deputy Commissioner of the Health Department. “This exercise demonstrates our commitment to ensuring we have the capability and resources to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers in times of crisis.”

“There are over 8 million New Yorkers, 55 million tourists and over 5 million commuters that visit this city,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. “This exercise will provide an opportunity to work closely with our emergency response partners to develop a safety plan that includes dispensing the proper medication in the event of a terrorist attack or public health emergency.”

“Today’s exercise is an important part of ensuring the readiness of our Department and other City agencies to work together to preserve the safety, health, and well-being of our children in the event of a citywide emergency,” said School Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Ensuring the safety and security of our students, teachers and school staff is always priority and we are committed to taking all necessary steps to achieve this.”

“It is our responsibility to make sure New York City is prepared for the variety of hazards we may face, from a coastal storm to a public health incident,” said NYC Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito. “Exercises like RAMPEx help to better prepare the City’s responding agencies for emergencies and keep New Yorkers safe.”

“HRA is proud to work with other City agencies to help prepare for possible emergencies. If disaster strikes, all City workers, not just those in the emergency services, are prepared to do their part to help their fellow New Yorkers recover,” said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks, whose agency is providing hundreds of support staff for the exercise. “HRA is the largest social service agency in the nation with a workforce that is committed to serving millions of New Yorkers every day, and especially during times of emergency or crisis.”

This is a full-scale exercise, meaning the Health Department is physically executing multiple elements of our response plan. By conducting the exercise in this way, the Health Department can review each piece of our emergency response plan and learn of critical gaps that can be corrected with additional planning or changes in policy.

Public health preparedness plays an important role for the health and well-being of all New Yorkers. Since 9/11 and the 2001 anthrax attacks, there have been 16 known terrorist plots against New York City. There have also been naturally-occurring disease outbreaks, such as the H1N1 flu virus, and natural disasters, like coastal storms, and excessive heat. Today’s exercise will build on the capabilities we have developed in previous years to respond to public health emergencies.

For more information, please…

Power Authority defends lease of office at Westchester County Airport

Power Authority defends lease of office at Westchester County Airport

by: Cara Matthews

A new state audit criticizes the state Power Authority for leasing warehouse space and an office for pilots at Westchester County Airport, and for charging tenants at its White Plains office low rents.

Story Highlights
A state audit slams NYPA for leasing an office at Westchester County Airport, warehouse space.
The quasi-public entity pays $2,883 a month for warehouse storage and $1,240 on pilot office space.
NYPA has three full-time pilots and a head of travel operations; has used charters, temporary pilots.
The audit says NYPA leases out some surplus space in its White Plains office for below-market rates.

A new state audit faults the New York Power Authority for leasing an office at Westchester County Airport and warehouse space in Pleasantville, but the authority said it needs its pilots at the airport and no longer rents storage space.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli questioned the necessity and cost of the leases. The NYPA has paid $2,883 per month since 2002 for the warehouse, which the audit said is at the airport but the NYPA said is in Pleasantville. The authority stored furniture and other building materials there from an office it closed in 2012.

NYPA spokeswoman Connie Cullen said in an email Friday that it ended the lease in March.

The NYPA audit recommended the authority’s pilots work out of its White Plains office, which is roughly six miles from the airport. Rent is $1,240 a month. But the authority disagreed.

“The office at the airport is highly beneficial and more efficient than placing the pilots in NYPA’s administrative building in White Plains,” NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones wrote.

An independent consultant recommended the quasi-public entity keep the office for several reasons, including that pilots’ daily non-flying duties require them to periodically access the nine-seat prop plane; and they need to be present in case NYPA engineers and technical staff have an emergency. The authority’s generation and transmission facilities include hard-to-reach locations where commercial flights are limited, she said.

The airport office and now-former warehouse space, along with hangar space for the plane, were among 15 properties the NYPA leased for a total of $660,000 a year, according to DiNapoli’s audit, which covered January 2010 through July 2013. As of Dec. 31, 2012, the authority — the country’s largest state public-power entity — owned 48,941 acres associated with 12 power-generation projects, the White Plains office and several permanent easements.

An August overview of NYPA by DiNapoli’s office said the authority had three full-time pilots and a travel operations director at a total cost of $398,583 for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The NYPA has used chartered air services and contracted for temporary pilot services in addition to owning, operating and maintaining aircraft over the years.

Other findings in the audit, which was released Tuesday, were that the NYPA didn’t notify the governor and Legislature it was renting out properties below market value, as required by law; it hasn’t adequately accounted for all its real estate; it doesn’t regularly review and update its property portfolio; and hadn’t kept its electronic inventory system current.

Quiniones wrote that the NYPA believes it already has procedures in place to address most of the recommendations but would improve real estate portfolio management and the associated technology, and it would notify the appropriate state officials when renting property at below-market rates.

Two tenants in the NYPA’s White Plains office building were paying “significantly less than market value,” the audit said. In one case, the lease had expired, and the tenant was paying $1,000 per month, less than $4 a square foot per year. The other was rented for $12.50 a square foot.

Quiniones wrote that the rentals are for a windowless 870-square-foot office and…