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A lobby renovation gone bad has radicalized one Park Slope co-op owner into a board-cursing insurgent, according to an online account she posted this week on the blog Fucked in Park Slope.
We feel her pain, and so, apparently, do many other NYC apartment owners: A quick poll of our BrickTank lawyers and managing agents reveals that lobby makeovers are among the most incendiary actions a board can take.
“Anything where aesthetic decisions are involved will be controversial,” says Dan Wurtzel, the president of Cooper Square Realty. That includes changes to elevator cabs, awnings, planters, and hallways among other things.
Lobbies are particularly touchy because residents regard them as the entranceway to their home, observes real estate lawyer Steven Wagner of Wagner Berkow. A botched job—or one imposed from above without input from residents—“is a sure way to bring out the worst in otherwise pleasant, agreeable neighbors,” he says.
Assessments and maintenance increases are the other two most likely to agitate.
Additional flashpoints include:
- Unequal treatment of residents, or special treatment of board members
- New employee uniforms
- Passing or raising flip taxes
- Changing or enforcing pet policies
- Choosing a temperature for the health club
- Buying artwork for the lobby
- Upgrading elevators from manual to automatic
- Unresponsiveness and failure to keep people informed
- Allocation of parking and storage
- Deciding what to do with unused space (gym vs playroom vs storage etc)
- Projects that intrude into apartments like repiping or window replacements
- Excessive and unpopular litigation
Each of these hot-button issues requires special care and feeding, our experts say.
When it comes to lobby renovations, real estate lawyer Eric Goidel advises his co-op and condo boards to figure out the overall layout and design, then “present a couple of design boards with carpet, paint and wallpaper options, and open it up to majority vote.”
It's a political salve, because "the board really does not need shareholder approval on aesthetics," notes real estate lawyer C. Jaye Berger.