Tag Archives: co-ops

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.”

 

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HUD grants not enough say co-op, condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Co-ops and condos damaged by Sandy are now eligible for federal housing grants.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery grants to help with repairs.

“We have finally cleared a bureaucratic hurdle that prevented thousands of homeowners in New York City and Long Island from getting the help they needed,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “We have always said that condos and co-ops should be eligible for the same assistance as single family homes, and now they are.”

But leaders and local co-op presidents said the fix is just a temporary one. The root of the problem, they said, is still not addressed.

“This is a good first step. There’s no question about it. But it’s a band-aid fix,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners. “This still discriminates against families of co-op apartments.”

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations.” The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.

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

“What we need is a permanent fix to how FEMA classifies co-ops and condos,” Israel said. “This is an interim solution that allows co-ops to access certain federal grants. But until FEMA changes the definition of co-ops, disaster assistance won’t be a sure thing.”

Co-op and condo owners will now have to battle it out with other retail developments, towns, villages and cities for the competitive grant, leaders said.

HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program last month. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total. The funds can be used to repair common areas in the building like lobbies, boilers and elevators.

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its pier.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” Friedrich said. The co-op will have to shell out close to $300,000 for infrastructural damage.

 

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Schumer pushes for co-op, condo Sandy relief


| mchan@queenscourier.com

New York’s senior senator has joined the ranks of leaders pushing for relief to storm-damaged co-ops and condos.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last Wednesday asking the agency to establish Sandy relief program guidelines for co-ops and condos.

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations,” according to elected federal officials. The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.

“After Sandy, FEMA was able to help many communities. However, due to inflexible bureaucratic rules, co-op and condo homeowners were left in the wake,” Schumer said.

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

Schumer called on HUD officials to use Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery funds to help co-op and condo owners repair and rebuild.

HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program early last week. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total.

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its shambled pier.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” according to Bob Friedrich, the co-op’s president. The co-op will have to shell out $250,000 for infrastructural damage.

And nearly 3,000 Mitchell-Lama co-ops in the Rockaways are forced to shoulder repair costs, said Dolores Orr, co-op owner and president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“It is astonishing to me that residential co-op buildings are not being afforded any financial assistance in the recovery from Sandy,” she said. “We are homeowners just like those who live in … family houses.”

 

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This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

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