Tag Archives: Bay Terrace Community Alliance

SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Co-ops, condos still waiting for disaster aid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A proposed federal law that would bring disaster aid to co-op and condo communities has not come any closer to being passed nearly one year after Sandy.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “It’s just prolonging the financial hardship on co-ops. Right now, we’re stuck footing the bill for cleanup and repair from the storm, and I don’t think this will be the last storm.”

Schreiber said his northeast Queens co-op expects to shell out up to $60,000 in repairs not covered by insurance.

More than $250,000 in infrastructure damage was sustained nearby in the Glen Oaks Village co-op, according to its president, Bob Friedrich.

The bill exceeds $1 million for some Rockaway co-ops in the most hard-hit areas of Queens.

The Breezy Point Cooperative, which saw about 350 homes in the beach community decimated by fire and flood, has spent $1.5 million out of the co-op’s reserves and contingency funds to get back on its feet, according to Arthur Lighthall, the co-op’s general manager.

“We had to do a good amount of repair and restoration to get things back in order,” including getting the water supply back and fixing sidewalks, Lighthall said. “The bottom line is it’s us, the shareholders, who have to pay for it.”

The pricey repair costs fall on the shoulders of co-op and condo communities due to a glitch in the law keeping them from getting FEMA storm recovery grants, local leaders said.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op,” according to Congressmember Steve Israel.

However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.

Israel introduced legislation this August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act, allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants, and call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

The bipartisan bill has at least 14 cosponsors so far but currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to Israel’s office.

An aide to the congressmember said any movement of the bill was delayed by the partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days in October.

“It’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy hit, and it’s time for co-op and condo associations to get the help they deserve,” Israel said. “Although I’ll continue to fight my hardest, it’s frustrating that this bill hasn’t been passed so these homeowners can receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution, which is only a formal position statement, last month calling for Congress to enact the law.

“It really shouldn’t be that difficult,” Schreiber said. “I just find it so disappointing that we have a Congress that can’t even get together on changing one line of text that will benefit constituents on the East Coast, West Coast and middle of the country.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Comfort station coming to Little Bay Park


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

Local leaders broke ground on a comfort station at Little Bay Park, marking the start of construction to a long-awaited project.

“A comfort station at a great park like Little Bay Park has been long overdue,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

Residents have urged the city’s Parks Department for about seven years to put public restrooms in the Bayside park. There are only three port-a-potties currently stationed there.

Plans were stalled when funding provided by the state’s Department of Transportation required additional review and time for comments, a Parks spokesperson said.

The site’s coastal wetland location and the need for new sewer connections also called for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and city’s Department of Environmental Protection to provide approvals on design and construction documents.

But now plans are back on track, officials said at the April 2 groundbreaking ceremony.

“The community has waited a long time for this groundbreaking,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “[We are] pleased that it is finally becoming a reality — a facility that will make a visit to Little Bay Park more pleasant for everyone.”

Construction is expected to last one year, officials said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Co-op, condo owners have one month before city can take away tax abatement


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Some co-op and condo owners have one month to prove their residency before the city takes away their tax abatement benefits.

According to co-op leaders, a large number of residents have received a notice in the mail from the city’s Department of Finance (DOF) stating they have until April 1 to verify their apartment unit is their primary residence in order to quality for their full abatement.

“Our records show that this unit is not your primary residence, so your abatement will be phased out,” the notice reads.
But co-op presidents said residents who received the letter have been predominantly living in their apartments for decades. The notice, leaders said, stems from the department’s poor record keeping.

“In true fashion, this is the Department of Finance’s inability to get their act together,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners. “It doesn’t surprise me that the [DOF] shows themselves to be an agency that is shockingly out of touch with the average taxpayer.”

The abatement loss could cost residents from $300 to $1,000, co-op presidents said.

According to Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, a DOF system glitch allows abatement credits to be transferred to new co-op owners when a previous owner moves out. Many times, the new owner is not eligible for those abatements but still benefits from them.

DOF spokesperson Owen Stone said that happens because there are no deeds involved. The transfer of credits is not reversed until co-op boards report the discrepancies to the department.

In regards to the abatement notice, Stone said the DOF is “working to ensure that those who qualify for the benefit receive it.”

Residents have four weeks from when the form was mailed to complete and return it, he said.

Friedrich said he fears residents who are away for the winter will miss the deadline and lose their abatements.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Law keeps co-op owners from receiving federal storm recovery grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A glitch in the law is keeping co-op owners from receiving federal storm recovery grants, officials said.

According to Congressmember Steve Israel, co-ops are shouldering the costs of repair for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations,” making them ineligible for federal grants — only loans.

The Stafford Act, which governs how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, Israel said. But there is no statute that purposefully bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

“FEMA is taking an overzealous interpretation to this,” said Israel. “It discriminates against co-op owners. It’s one thing to be devastated by a hurricane. It’s another to be devastated by a loophole.”

Cryder Point Co-ops suffered $1 million in damage that left their waterfront community’s pier in shambles, said Phil Resnick, vice president of the co-op’s board of directors.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” leading to $250,000 in infrastructural damages, said Bob Friedrich, the co-op’s president. The unbudgeted costs also include the removal of downed trees.

“Housing co-ops are not business associations. We do not generate income based on corporate or private profit,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Many middle-class shareholders who are already experiencing financial difficulties will not be able to absorb the additional charges.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Legislature leaves co-op, condo owners in the lurch


| mchan@queenscourier.com

City co-op and condo owners may have to ante up more in taxes after lawmakers said the state Legislature may not reconvene this year to pass promised relief.

“We had hoped the Legislature would meet and pass the annual abatement. It looks like we’re not going back,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s going to be a huge cost to co-op and condo owners and a retreat from everything that we’ve worked on thus far.”

Co-op and condo community leaders said the state Legislature left them high and dry at the end of June, when lawmakers adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program and its tax abatement program, which expired June 30. A bill that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations was also not addressed by the end of the session, they said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo had reached an agreement in July on “landmark” tax relief legislation that would be signed into law later this year when legislators return to Albany.

But lawmakers now say the Legislature may not meet before the year is out, meaning co-op and condo owners may have to brace for bigger tax bills in January.

“I’m very disappointed. They all agreed that a special session would be called, and it’s obviously not happening,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. “This just goes to show that actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to politics.”

Friedrich said his community could lose out on about $1 million, which he said would eventually come out of shareholders’ wallets.

“In an economic environment like this, people can’t afford these massive increases,” he said. “It would be crushing.”

The J-51 program gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, and the abatement reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to an additional $1,200 a year in maintenance costs without the abatement.

“If the state of New York wants to drive affordable housing out of the city, it’s very easy,” he said. “Don’t renew the tax abatements. But if you want us to stay, do it, and it’s not that difficult. All it takes is going back to Albany and having a vote.”

The governor’s office did not respond to calls for comment.

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits also released this year by the city comptroller’s office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in fiscal year 2011-12.

New council lines divide interests


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC District Commission

Small changes will be made to several city council lines in Queens under the first draft of new districts, but some say the lines break up areas with a common interest or concern.

The drafted lines are in sync with data from the 2010 census to even out population distribution throughout each district. A number of Queens residents spoke out about line changes at a public hearing last month, where they asked that some neighborhoods stay intact regarding representation.

A second round of hearings will begin on Tuesday, October 2 and continue through Thursday, October 11.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said that while his neighborhood would not be shifted, Mitchell-Linden would now be taken from the 20th District to the 19th. The problem with this, he said, was the demographic in the area wanted to stay intact because of a shared, common interest.

“They kind of wanted to stay where they were,” he said, referring to the Asian demographic in Mitchell-Linden that is currently represented by Councilmember Peter Koo.

Schrieber said the redistricting should not be politically motivated — to keep an incumbent in or remove someone — but rather should care about the common concerns of a demographic.

“It should be up to us, we decide who our elected officials are going to be,” he said. “I think it’s wrong; it erodes our political system. We don’t get the best representation.”

Little Bay Park project stall is little ‘comfort’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Bayside elected officials and community leaders are campaigning for relief for visitors of Little Bay Park and hoping that millions of dollars in funding hasn’t been flushed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Senator Tony Avella united with Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, and residents of the Bayside community on November 29 to urge the Parks Department to begin the revitalization project of Little Bay Park – which includes the construction of a comfort station.

Avella, who previously allocated funding for a dog run in the park, apportioned $1.3 million for the public restrooms seven years ago – the same time Congressmember Gary Ackerman secured a $4.12 million federal transportation allocation to reconstruct and expand the Little Bay parking lot and rebuild the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass at 212th Street.

Neither project has commenced, and three port-a-potties are currently stationed in the park.

“This seems to be systematic of the Parks Department – getting money and then not moving ahead with the project,” said Avella, who believes usage of the park has increased by 1,000 percent in the past decade. “It is unfair to the community to have to wait seven years for something they have been asking for, and it is unfair to tax payers because each year you delay a capital project, costs go up. I would hate to even ask the Parks Department what this project would cost today.”

The senator blames the delay on a lack of communication and transparency and says he plans to introduce state legislation requiring all city agencies to provide information on their web sites about all pending capital projects, including where funding is coming from, the anticipated start and completion dates and where the projects are in the construction process.

“These were important funds that I fought hard to secure for our community,” said Ackerman. “It’s well past time for these projects to move forward. Hopefully, all agencies involved can cut through the bureaucratic red tape so that shovels can finally get into the ground as soon as possible.”

During the press conference, community leaders emphasized that there is “great fear” that the money is being used for other projects.

“It’s obvious that the planned park and traffic enhancements have somehow been derailed. It’s time to get them back on track,” said Schreiber, who called the Parks Department one of the most difficult agencies to deal with. “At some point you have to wonder if the money is still there or if it was used for another purpose.”

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, a number of outstanding issues exist that are preventing the initiation of the project, including state approval to build close to a coastal zone, state approval to handle archaeological finds – if any are discovered on site – due to the recent discovery of archaeological material within half a mile of the park, and permission from several agencies to utilize a sewer line owned by the FDNY.

“The total budget for the comfort station and parking lot is approximately $4 million,” said the spokesperson. “This includes both federal and city funds. The funding is secure and has not been reallocated. Because the project contains federal grant funds, the state is obligated to review all plans before Parks can bid or begin to build.  We’ve been working closely and actively with the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to address their comments and requests.”

After learning of the press conference on November 29, Avella says Parks Department officials and the Department of Transportation contacted him and arranged a meeting to discuss the project.

“At this point, I am optimistic that the Parks Department recognizes this is a serious issue for the community,” Avella said. “Hopefully they will realize that we need communication and transparency and we are here to work together to move this project along.”