To Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums (FNYHC) executive director Gregory Carlson, there's a big difference between a co-op or condominium board and an informed co-op or condominium board. Carlson's unwritten job description is to eliminate examples of the former in New York.
To this end, Carlson, and the FNYHC go to great lengths, from organizing educational meetings for constituents to working with legislators on those constituents' behalf. "New York City is run by special interest groups," says Carlson. "What we do is help co-ops and condos get their voices heard in the appropriate places in the state, the city and on the national level. A lot of times when legislation is passed, those types of buildings are either left out, or are included where they shouldn't be in the overall rental landscape."
The mission of the Federation is providing education, advocacy and research to the co-op and condo community throughout New York City, Suffolk and Westchester areas, Carlson says. Owing back to its Section 213 roots, there are even members located as far away as Massachusetts and Michigan. The FNYHC regularly conducts seminars on timely issues of interest to their resident members, which are the co-op and condo boards. According to Carlson, the FNYHC has over 450 buildings on its member rolls, which is equivalent to roughly 200,000 units. "Although we represent buildings, our outreach is to board members," Carlson says.
A major project for the Federation is working with legislators on issues such as tax abatement and capital improvement allowances. Taxes, in particular, have been a focal point in recent years. In the early "˜90s, when real estate taxes were at peak levels, the FNYHC launched a grass roots campaign - an effort that involved everything from meeting with members of the city council to forming a political action committee - that contributed to tax relief in the form of the property tax abatement program, passed in 1996.
"In essence, what we've been saying is that co-op and condo shareholders are just like homeowners," Carlson says. "Yet before the bill was passed, the average condo dweller was paying five times as much in real-estate taxes as a homeowner." That program has been extended until 2004, but Carlson admits that the issue "is not finished." The tax abatement was technically a "temporary stop gap" measure, he says, and the Federation is seeking a replacement plan that would be more equitable for all homeowners.