Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: The board shot down our renovation plans and now they're ignoring us

By Jamie Lee Sutton  | February 9, 2011 - 4:26PM

Dear Ms. Demeanor,

We recently bought an apartment with great 'bones' that needs signficant updating.  The co-op's alteration agreement is quite detailed but says nothing about not allowing 'wet over dry'.  Our very experienced architect, construction manager and decorator worked on plans for months to present to the board and the city. 

Long story short, we were denied most of what we wanted to do, including some 'wet over dry' and installing central air with only a small compressor outside the building (in back) and no change to the masonry. 

There was no recourse or venue for appeal indicated and we have not been able to get in contact with anyone on the board via phone or email.  It has left us back at the drawing board, at our expense, and everyone involved shaking their heads.

Any advice or wisdom you have would be most appreciated.




Dear Out-in-the-cold,

If you have been reading Brickunderground's own NYC Renovation Chronicles, you know that the agony (and hopefully the ectsasy) has only just begun.  Renovating is a big freaking hassle anywhere and, as everything else is, an even bigger hassle in New York City. 

If most coops boards understood the new waterproofing methods required by the city, the infamous 'no wet over dry' rule might go the way of the dodo bird and subway tokens.  That being said, it was likely not in the alteration agreement because it is generally believed to be an implied (if imperfect and inconsistently followed) rule. 

As for your central air situation, while central air is vastly more energy efficient, most co-op boards are loathe to do anything that changes the outward appearance of the building.  If you trust your team, hopefully they will figure things out and get them right the second time around now that they know how the game is played in your building (and it is a game). 

Realize that you may not get everything on your wish list, but try to remember that the space and location you love will be even more lovable once the renovation is done, and only 25% over budget if you are lucky.

As for not being able to access one's own elected representatives, for that I have no words. After all, you live in a co-op, not a dictatorship, and a lack of communication between the board and shareholders is unacceptable.  I would speak with the management company, attend board meetings, and knock on doors if you have to.  Do it the Ms. Demeanor way -- with a babka in hand and a smile on your face but with determination and conviction.  If all else fails, bide your time and do your utmost to get elected next time around.

Keep us posted on your progress.

All the best,

Ms. Demeanor


Ms. Demeanor is channeled by a longtime Manhattan vertical dweller and real-estate voyeur who writes under the pen name Jamie Lauren Sutton. She is here to commiserate, calm and correct. Please email your quandaries to [email protected] and put "Dear Ms. Demeanor" in the subject line.


See all of Ms. Demeanor's advice here.


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