According to a story in the New York Daily News on August 18, a construction worker died after apparently hanging himself from a fifth-floor window at a Queens condominium complex. By any estimation, this event was tragic, and surely devastating for the friends and family of the deceased. But an incident like this doesn't happen in a vacuum, and its effects tend to reverberate throughout the greater community at large. And while such shocking deaths are rare, unfortunate circumstances of a lesser stripe are not.
So this begs the question: on whom does it fall to restore community morale in the wake of such an incident? Do co-op and condo boards or homeowner's associations take on that responsibility? Is it left to random individuals to step up and act as a guiding light during a dark time? Or do both boards and residents alike simply turn a blind eye and wait for the mood to alleviate?
“Honestly, boards of both condos and co-ops are as different as snowflakes,” says Andrew P. Brucker, a partner at the law firm of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, LLP, which has offices in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. “Some associations go overboard when there is a tragedy, and some do nothing.”
In his experience as property manager, Robin B. Steiner, a managing member of RMR Residential Realty in White Plains, New York, has mostly encountered the latter. “Personal matters generally do not come before the board, save for when collection issues are involved. With those, there is generally no sense of empathy. But in the case of other tragedies, at most I've encountered a basket of fruit or a sympathy card sent.”
But it truly takes all kinds. Neil Davidowitz, Esq., president of Orsid Realty Corp., a New York City real estate management firm, says that he has seen “boards hold and participate in memorial services and make contributions to charities in the memory of certain residents. I'd say that it's actually quite common for boards to come to someone's aid in times of crisis.”