Glen Oaks Village
A Success Story in Queens
Like so many other neighborhoods and areas of the city, the Glen Oaks Village cooperative in Queens has seen its share of good times and not-so-good times. But from the bleak days of the 1970s and ‘80s, thanks to a conversion, a committed, self-managing board, and involved shareholders, the picture at Glen Oaks Village today is very different from what it was a couple of decades ago.
New Board, New Start
Located in northeastern Queens, Glen Oaks Village was built during World War II, originally as rental housing for GIs returning from combat in Europe and the Pacific. It converted to co-op in 1981, but during the 1970s and ‘80s the community experienced a downturn in value and appeal. The property wasn’t well maintained, and the area became known as a place for transients.
The outlook began to improve, however when the current board finally took over the self-managed property and began serious efforts to turn the community around.
“The strength of a cooperative is to have long-term residency, so the current board has worked very hard over the last 10 to 15 years, completely reorienting and changing Glen Oaks,” says Bob Friedrich, current president of Glen Oaks Village Owners Inc. (GOVO).
The board has done such an impressive job with this economic and tenant makeover that according to Friedrich, “we are financially sound and have a reserve account in excess of $12 million. Now we are a community where people stay for a long period of time.”
Donna Ostuni is one of those residents who have yet to leave. Ostuni, now married with four children, came to Glen Oaks Village with her parents in 1967, when she was a mere seven years old and the apartments were still rent-controlled.
“Then I grew up, I got married and just stayed; I liked the community and the neighborhood and now it’s doing really well in part to the board and Bob Friedrich,” she says.
Justin Conklin moved into the same Glen Oaks apartment that was owned by his father-in-law and he and his wife have now lived there for 11 years. He enjoys the location; Glen Oaks Village is ideally located near many of the major highways. For those who prefer public transportation, commuting to Manhattan is a breeze with the Q46 or the QM1 express bus. For those who prefer an even quicker commute, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Little Neck Station is just a mile-and-a-half away, and 35 minutes from Manhattan.
“Our commute into Manhattan, where we work, is one hour from door to door and it’s a direct line,” says Conklin. “It’s the gem of Queens; it doesn’t look like you’re in rural Queens; it’s off the beaten path and you wouldn’t know it was there.”
Glen Oaks Village is not your typical high-rise apartment building, but an 112-acre array of two-story buildings along curved, tree lined streets with 2,904 garden apartments and approximately 10,000 residents. Within a 10-minute walk, residents can enjoy restaurants, convenience stores, pizzerias, a fitness center, pharmacies, delis, shopping centers, banks, the post office and more.
There are eight different apartment styles at Glen Oaks Village, ranging from one- to three-bedroom apartments, many with decks and terraces. There are 1,337 indoor garages and multiple private outdoor rear parking spaces. There are four on-site laundry rooms and many storage areas (both rental and free) situated throughout the community. Glen Oaks Village also boasts two lighted tennis courts, a three-wall outdoor racquetball court, one bocce court, six playgrounds and a community room available for parties and social gatherings.
And it’s not all strictly suburban, either. “We might be in Queens, but you’ll also see sheep, cows and all kinds of farm animals nearby, because we border the Queens County Farm Museum,” says Friedrich. The Farm Museum is the only working historical farm in the city and encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard, and an herb garden.
Raise the Roof!
To maintain the strength of its long-term residency, Friedrich explains that the board needed to devise a plan to retain residents who were outgrowing their current spaces and would otherwise buy a single-family home or move to a larger apartment in another community. As a result, the board approved a plan, with the city’s blessing, that allowed residents to add dormers onto their upstairs apartments or renovate the basements in the downstairs apartments. This provided the shareholders with much-needed additional space at a much lower cost than purchasing a whole new home.
“Not every building will be changed in that way, but an individual who now needs the space can either spend $800,000 or more to buy a house, or they can add a prefab dormer for $150,000 to $200,000. They could then have two floors of completely livable space to design,” explains Friedrich. “It’s the benefits of homeownership without the hassles of homeownership.”
There are limitations—for example, the basement additions cannot be converted into bedrooms or rented out—but for the most part, this outside-of-the-box thinking is what led Ostuni to be one of the first residents to benefit from a new dormer and Conklin to benefit from a finished basement. In turn, the development gains residents that will stay longer, plus a 25 percent increase on maintenance fees for the new addition.
Every year, the board also offers the residents another innovative program—the Green Thumb Program—where $20 vouchers to the local nursery and greenhouse are given to each homeowner. The greenhouses provide a 20 percent discount on plants and landscaping materials, and homeowners use the vouchers to beautify their exterior. “In most cases, the residents spend more than that to do this,” says Friedrich. “We spend $40,000 a year on this, and it makes Glen Oaks look beautiful.”
“The board is also open to ideas the residents may have, and if it makes sense, the board would probably say yes. We want the residents to make the community value-added, so that values of the property can go up,” says Friedrich.
The board is also open to talking about its financials and even posts regular updates on their website, www.glenoaksvillage.com for current and potential residents to see. The GOVO community also publishes a four-color professionally-designed newsletter about the goings-on at the co-op.
“We encourage total transparency,” says Friedrich. “If everybody knows what you are doing, you can’t have a problem in the future. The info is out there, and there are no secrets.”
Each year, the board also spends at least $1.5 million on capital projects—including resurfacing one or two driveways per year, keeping building systems operating efficiently including the installation of new boilers, making routine repairs, repainting doors and other exterior finishes, maintaining and upgrading sidewalks or moving sidewalks if the board realizes they are in the wrong location and residents are walking on grass. Recently, basement windows made of old glass, chicken wire and wood were replaced with glass blocks that enhanced their look and require less maintenance.
And maintenance increases, in a time of escalating costs have been held in check. Glen Oaks Village’s 2.52 percent monthly maintenance increase as of January 2006 is the lowest of all neighboring co-ops, some of whom are averaging double-digit increases, according to Friedrich.
Glen Oaks Village is a melting pot—it’s home to young families, mid-life couples and seniors who have recently downsized. Due to its close proximity to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the community is also filled with future doctors who are completing their residency and need temporary housing, which is still available, albeit a smaller amount than back in the WWII era.
Glen Oaks Village has an on-site real estate office, Century 21 Miller & Miller and according to sales manager Rob Miller, demand for apartments is high.
Although there is no new construction, some units have been remodeled. Miller explains that popular amenities include granite, stainless steel appliances, and in-unit washer/dryers. Residents also enjoy 24-hour private security.
There are two different one-bedroom units; a three-room unit and a four-room unit. The one-bedroom units are 475 to 550 square feet and range from $170,000 to $200,000. There are four different models of two-bedroom units, ranging from 560 to 700 square feet, and $220,000 to $319,000. There are two different models of three-bedroom units, including a three-bedroom with no dining room, or a two-bedroom with a dining room. These units run from 740 square feet to 820 square feet and are priced at $250,000 to $364,900.
“This property is considered one of the best managed properties among people who visit, and it’s still considered affordable compared to buying a house,” says Miller.
Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer living in Poughkeepsie, New York and a frequent contributor to The Cooperator.