Friday, September 29, 2006

Can Owners Be Assessed to Construct a Gym?

The New York Times
September 29, 2006
Q & A

Q Our co-op has imposed an assessment to build a gym. Since the gym will be available only to shareholders who pay a membership fee, can all shareholders be made responsible for the cost of building it?

A "The short answer is yes," said Howard Schechter, a Manhattan co-op lawyer. "Decisions on how much to assess shareholders and how to spend the money are within the discretion of the board of directors."

Mr. Schechter noted that while it might seem that the gym will benefit only those who pay membership fees, this is not necessarily the case. "The addition of such an amenity may benefit all shareholders, even those who do not join, by making the entire building more desirable to prospective purchasers," he said.

He pointed out that buildings often spend money on amenities — playgrounds, roof gardens and parking garages, for example — that are not used by all residents.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Blight on the block

New York Post

September 5, 2006 -- AFTER the arrival of "The Apple," everyone on West 94th Street has an opinion - few of them positive.

A documentary filmmaker who's lived across from the building (formerly the Mount Royal Hotel) for the past five years says, "You noticed right away that the neighborhood changed, literally overnight. You now notice people stumbling down the street, clearly chemically incapacitated."

Marina Higgins, a longtime Upper West Side resident, fears The Apple will drag down local property values. A real-estate manager at The Argo Corp., she saw a drop in value for a property she oversees on West 101st Street in 2003 - when the city opened The Frant, another "temporary" shelter, across the street.

With The Apple open on her own block, she says, "I have a concern for the quality-of-life issues based on what has occurred in and around this facility and its impact on other residents."

A woman who's lived nearby for years said, "One night while walking home, a druggie said something very rude. Now, I walk down 93rd Street instead, just because there's an uncertainty." And she's not the only one who now avoids the block.

"Some of these people shouldn't live in this area," agreed one Apple resident/Department of Homeless Services client, herself a former crack dealer. "I seen a 20-year- old pregnant crackhead, [offering acts of prostitution] on the corner . . . There are at least two crack dealers in The Apple."

"The drug gangs are operating out in the open," reports Aaron Biller, a spokesman for Neighborhood in the Nineties, a community group that has spent the last 20 years cleaning up the area. He said the 91st Street Playground and Riverside Park are now sprinkled with crack vials. "You now see a congregation in Riverside Park and on Riverside Drive; people are sleeping in the park. None of these things we've seen before," said Biller.

Residents also report rampant panhandling since The Apple's arrival.

"The first night it was open, I was panhandled in several places. On Broadway between 91st and 96th, there's been a tremendous increase . . . it's the worst I've seen since the Dinkins' administration," said Biller.

"But frankly, I'm sympathetic with some of the panhandlers - and usually I'm not. After having moved from Brooklyn, they're in sticker shock. Food on the Upper West Side costs a multiple of what it costs in Brooklyn. They get vouchers that don't go very far. That's a serious nutritional value situation - DHS put nine pregnant women in this facility," said Biller.

DHS is trying to quell community concerns, say Apple residents. "They tell us we're not allowed to stand around on this street," one pregnant resident said, pointing to 94th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. "So everyone just walks around the corner to smoke."

Many residents told of a client who gave an interview to a NY1 reporter, bemoaning The Apple's squalid conditions - then, on returning to the shelter, was told by an official, "Give another interview, and you're evicted."

Inside, the most popular complaint is bedbugs. "There's bedbugs everywhere, people are running to the doctor everyday," said one DHS client, who claims to have lived in 315 W. 94th St. since April.

Do they remove the infested mattresses? "No, they tear up the place, spray every three weeks, but there's still bedbugs. There's mice and everything," she says, showing her arms with multiple bites.

Many also complain about the bathrooms - just one for every 12 residents. "They're very nasty - they have some Mexicans [to clean], but they do nothing to help you," said one.

"My main complaint is the showers; they don't hold the water on the inside and everything gets soaked," said Hopkins, 33. A three-year veteran of "the system," as he calls it, his review of The Apple is more positive, saying: "It's not as bad as the last facility" the city put him in, the Auburn shelter in Brooklyn.

After he left, his wife said she disagreed, saying her husband wouldn't know how bad The Apple is, because he spends all his time at his girlfriend's house.

Before DHS converted the Mount Royal into The Apple, the building housed 65 single-room-occupancy tenants, with the rest of the building used as an illegal tourist hotel.

A project director for the Goddard-Riverside Community Center's West Side SRO Law Project, Molly Doherty, said the remaining SRO tenants are scared.

"Tenants are concerned that [the new landlord] Alan Lapes has entered into a relationship where he has no incentive to protect rent-stabilized units. Lapes stated that he would not take on any new stabilized tenants."

"We're concerned about the SRO tenants," said Gale Brewer, the City Council member representing 94th Street. She's against Mount Royal being used as a shelter: "The building is not appropriate for a homeless shelter. There are no kitchens, no places to prepare food, no refrigerators. We're trying to move people out, to a better location. The commissioner has stated it will be closed by the fall."

What if it's still open by Christmas?

"I truly believe it will close by the fall."

Tom Elliott ( is a member of The Post's editorial board.