Tag Archives: bob ricken

Pols argue over whose co-op/condo legislation is best


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A coalition of co-op and condo owners in northeast Queens had one message for its elected officials after arguments erupted over whose bill was best: no more lip service.

“What you see is the dysfunction in Albany. This isn’t a Republican-Democrat issue. It’s about homeowners who don’t want to be pushed out of their homes,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. and cofounder of the President’s Co-op Council.

The Council — which represents about 100,000 co-op shareholders — joined close to one dozen elected officials and more than 900 concerned Queens residents at North Shore Towers on April 12 to rally for action against the city for another year of property tax spikes.

While Friedrich said a solution could not be reached without the cooperation of state lawmakers, some electeds — with pointed fingers — turned the meeting into a heated political debate.

“There’s been a little too much lip service tonight. I sat here and got madder and madder as I listened to every speaker,” said Senator Tony Avella. “We had an opportunity last year, and we blew it because of politics on both sides of the aisle.”

Currently, there are three bills on the table in Albany on how to address the issue, which Avella said is a clear sign of disconnect between state leaders who he said may each be pushing for their own legislation to pass.

“It’s not that the Republicans don’t want to move the bill to address this — it’s which bill should they support? Which one gets passed? This has to stop. I don’t care if it’s my bill or somebody else’s bill, but this has got to stop. We’re not working together,” he said.

Avella’s own bill, which he called the “best solution,” would create a new property tax class — called Class 1A — for co-op and condo owners. He said the bill would provide the same protections that exist for Class 1 properties, capping any single yearly tax increase at 6 percent and 20 percent over a five year period.

An earlier law put forth by Assemblymember David Weprin would propose similar provisions, classifying co-ops as Class 1 and capping increases at the same percentage, while other legislation by Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein would see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. They said the law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding.

Councilmember Mark Weprin fired back, saying each elected official was in fact “working hard” together to create a solution by this year.

“With all due respect, you’re the one who hasn’t been to most of the meetings,” Weprin said. “This is a very delicate situation, but to say that people here are just giving lip service is just nonsense. This is not about whose bill we’re going to sponsor. We’re all trying to solve a problem here, and I think we’re all open to whatever solution we can get adopted that will save co-op owners. That’s the goal here, and that’s why I took a lot of offense.”

Senate and Assembly officials have only until the end of June this year to agree on one single bill and have it passed by both Houses, Weprin said. While the City Council is not directly involved in the legislation process, Weprin said councilmembers have an upper hand in trying to get the mayor on board.

“I’ve seen bills drafted, signed and passed in 12 hours. We just have to work together,” Weprin said. “I thought [the meeting] was a good case of democracy in action.”

Year in Review: A look back on 2011 at NST


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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As Tower residents ring in the New Year, Board President Bob Ricken sat with the North Shore Towers Courier to reflect on the past year’s successes while looking ahead to the future of the co-op.

For the third consecutive year, residents can relish in the fact that there will be no increases in maintenance or Country Club dues.

Ricken attributes this mainly to the rise in apartment sales this year, which landed the co-op major headlines in the city’s most prominent daily newspapers.

The New York Times featured North Shore Towers on February 20 as “one of the strongest sellers among luxury co-op buildings in New York City.” Soon after, on August 19, the Towers stood out as one of the “best places to live in New York,” in an article published by the Daily News. The four-page spread boasted the facility’s amenities and even its lively history.

“It was probably more positive than I could have even been,” Ricken said. “These kinds of things really enhance the image of North Shore Towers.”

According to Ricken, apartment sales have increased a little more than 25 percent, with 98 sales last year and 125 this year.

What is important about that is we far exceeded what we budgeted for our flip tax,” he said. “That helped us keep down maintenance, and we had a large amount of money for flip tax because we had those 125 sales.”

Ricken said the work of the Political Action Committee also helped to keep costs down.

This year, Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, Councilmember Mark Weprin, City Speaker Christine Quinn, and two-time visitor State Senator Tony Avella came to speak at the co-op.

“Many of these politicians came to [Presidents Co-op Council] meetings and helped let city officials be aware that we have an inequity in our tax structure,” Ricken said. “And that was indicated this year when our tax rate was lower than we expected.”

Along with a total six-member Country Club increase from 2010, Ricken expressed that he was pleased with several other accomplishments throughout the year — including the annual Board of Directors election, which saw incumbents Phyllis Goldstein, Murray Lewinter, Phil Plafker and Bob Ricken re-elected. They will each serve another two-year term after running unopposed.

“I don’t believe that’s an indication that there’s lethargy among the people who live here,” Ricken said. “I think it’s an indication that they’re very satisfied with what the Board is doing. I’m very proud of the accomplishments of this Board.”

Ricken said he’s also pleased with continuous efforts in improving communication between the Board and residents. In order to keep the community on top of what goes on behind closed board room doors, Ricken said he slips letters under residents’ doors right after the meeting, so they won’t have to wait a month to hear important news.

He also said second on the agenda after reviewing the previous board meeting minutes is reading letters that residents have submitted — whether they are suggestions, criticisms, angry or positive feedback.

Ricken said the Board has also begun utilizing Power Point presentations during open meetings in order to pass along information to residents in a clearer manner.

“In other words, we’ve been extremely transparent, and there are very few surprises now for residents,” Ricken said. “One of the things that the Board is most gratified with is that the tone of the meetings is more positive, and the feedback from residents has been equally positive.”

The optimism may have also stemmed from the completion of several major projects this year, Ricken said.

Due to the high amount of money in reserve funds — which Ricken said is now in the area of $18 million — Tower residents now have a new chimney stack, which replaced one that was rotted over decades of use; new ramps; new rugs and logos in the entranceways; new doors in each of the buildings; revamped gardens throughout the community; improvements in the VIP Room, including fixing the men’s and women’s bathrooms and switching food vendors; the installation of the new pool room downstairs in the County Club; new furniture for the indoor pool and new pieces of equipment in the gym.

Looking to 2012, there will be several more items added to the agenda, along with replacing generators, which Ricken said is currently in a “long and very intense planning process.”

Residents and their families saw the importance of the generators when several storms pummeled through the region in 2011.

“We’ve had significant storms this year — not only with snowstorms, but there was a bit of an earthquake and there was also Hurricane Irene,” Ricken said. “It was gratifying to have about 350 of our residents’ relatives sleeping over because they didn’t have electricity in Queens or Nassau County.”

The co-op never lost power during these storms, Ricken said.

Ricken then complimented and thanked the staff, management and vendors for being on top of any possible storm damage.

“I’ve never received as many positive comments from our community about the job that they have done with snow removal and just keeping the place in an immaculate condition,” Ricken said. “It’s incredible waking up after a massive snow storm and find that all you see outside is black top.”

In 2012, the Towers’ two biggest contracts are up for review, meaning major upcoming projects include deciding which management and security companies to hire.

Currently, the co-op’s management company is the Charles H. Greenthal Management Corp.

“Even if we’re happy with our management company, we believe that we should always go out and interview other firms,” Ricken said, adding that co-op officials are presently interviewing management companies and will make a choice within the next couple of months.

The co-op will also go out for a new mortgage in 2012.

“Hopefully, with mortgage rates being lower, we’ll be able to save a lot of money in the future,” Ricken said. “The biggest challenge is always to maintain the finances of the co-op.

“You always have to plan for the future. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. My favorite quote has always been, ‘If you coast, you can only go downhill.’ We always have to have a focus on the future, on maintaining and improving everything we have. That’s the principle by which we budget and do long-range planning.”

Bob Ricken honored as a ‘King of Queens’


| jlyons@queenscourier.com

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North Shore Towers Board President Bob Ricken was one of 35 honorees at The Queens Courier’s recent fourth annual “King of Queens” event, which recognized leaders in the borough from a variety of fields.

While Ricken might have at first been unsure about accepting the award, he said he eventually did so because of the cooperative.

“I really felt North Shore Towers deserved it [the honor] so that’s why I became very excited with the opportunity,” he said. Ricken also said, “I really believe we’ve been a miracle in the last few years.”

Ricken explained that the “miracle” has been avoiding maintenance increases for the last two years and Country Club dues increases for the last three even in the current economic environment. He also noted that the cooperative is waiting on the New York City tax rates to determine what will happen with maintenance for next year.

“One of the promises I made when I got onto the Board was I would work to that end but I never thought we’d achieve it in this economic environment,” Ricken said.

Ricken said that he thought the November 3 event, which was held at Terrace on the Park, was “magnificent.” He said he was excited to meet everyone, particularly Matilda Cuomo, who was honored as “Women of the Year,” and New York City Comptroller John Liu, who was recognized as “Man of the Year.”

“I found that the people there were excited to be there; the program was just brilliantly put together,” Ricken said. “The whole tone was a pro-business, pro-community, pro-Queens kind of an affair and it made you feel good to be there and be a part of it.”

Among the people on hand for the event were Ricken’s wife Susan; Board members Herb Cooper, Phyllis Goldstein, Phil Plafker and Jim Short; General Manager Glen Kotowski; Assistant to the General Manager Bruce Vogel; Controller Robert Serikstad; Security Director Kris Debysingh; realtor Linda Rappaport; counsel Errol Brett; Country Club Manager Mary Anne Langone and vendor Pouran Eshghi.

“I really appreciated them being there,” Ricken said.

Ricken said that the event was a great public relations opportunity for North Shore Towers since he was able to speak with bankers, lawyers, business people and political people.

“These are people who can well afford to live here,” he said.

When it comes to being a leader, Ricken said that he thinks it’s important to be “a warm fuzzy with teeth.” This means being good to all people while still making tough decisions when necessary. He also said it’s important to treat people fairly, collaborate and recognize that “a mass of people know more than you.”

Ricken has served as the President of the North Shore Towers Board of Directors for about the last three and a half years. In that leadership role, he said the most rewarding part has been having the community grow to respect the Board and appreciate their accomplishments. He also said there is now a tone in the buildings that the Towers is a great place to live.

“I’m also very appreciative to have a Board that works cooperatively together. That doesn’t mean we have any yes people on the Board,” Ricken said. “It means that we have our own arguments, our discussions and then come out with a decision that’s best for the community. I think that collaboration and cooperation on the Board is what I appreciate probably more than anything.”

To view more photos, see the North Shore Towers Courier’s December issue!