Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Special "What we have Lost" report to my housing co-op: Soap opera at its best!

Note: I may be wrong regarding this whole long list of things that we co-op residents have lost in the last 20 years but after serving as your representative to the Board of Directors since the co-op was founded in 1979 and/or observing what has gone on during that time, unfortunately I don’t think that I am.

In the last few months, I have been making an effort to let you guys know that goes on at the co-op Board meetings but lately all the important stuff – issues that are of genuine concern to everyone here – have all been relegated to executive sessions so I’ve been effectively gagged from discussing them here. Want to know why our re-hab has been totally blocked? Sorry. I can’t tell you. Want to know who has totally blocked it? My lips are sealed. Too bad for you. No beans are going to be spilled. Just suffice it to say that I’d be very surprised if you get new shingles any time soon.

And what else have certain members of our Board of Directors cost us over the last 20 years? Let’s see.

We all own a share of our co-op, right? But did you know that apparently our shares could entitle us to actual ownership of our units – once the mortgage has been paid off. And in the past 27 years, HUD has given us the option to raise our rents so that we could keep up with our maintenance, pay off our mortgage and have extra bucks left over so that 40 years after Savo was opened – that would be 2019 – we could possibly convert to condos and own our own units. But our Board of Directors’ majority alliance chose not to allow HUD to give us all that extra money so there’s no way we can ever pay off our first mortgage, second mortgage, third mortgage, etc. in my lifetime. So that dream is gone.

We’ve also lost trust. Is there anyone left in this co-op who actually believes that they will be given a fair shake at Board meetings if they are not in with the in-group? Get real. And conversely, if you are on the Board or have a buddy on the Board, can you pretty much be assured of getting whatever you want? A larger unit, not having to downsize, a relative moved up on the waiting list – or not even having to go through the waiting list at all? Want an illegal lateral transfer? No problem.

What else have we lost? Our reputation. We’ve gone through so many management companies that our last management company quit 90 days ago and we still can’t find any other company who is [naive] enough to want to replace them. That’s just sad. And no other project manager, architect or general contractor will ever want to attempt to work on our re-hab either after they find out what other contractors, etc have been forced to endure.

We’ve lost our credit rating. Vendors now all want cash up front.

We lost our perks! We used to be able to send delegates to the national co-op convention each year. Now we’re lucky if we can afford to order pizza at the Board meetings – let alone pay our employees’ salaries.

We’ve also lost our protection against possible lawsuits. There are now 2 (two) HUD fair housing investigations going on. Plus several possible court cases and a probable class action suit are looming against individual Board members based on favoritism and cronyism and self-interest – such as the granting of an illegal lateral transfer; a friend of Board members who has had a whole family subletting their unit for approximately a year; a friend of Board members who is falsely accusing other co-op residents of things in order to force them out of their unit so other relatives could move in; friends of Board members who move to larger units by claiming disabilities that magically disappear once the move has been made; friends of Board members who try every trick that they can to try to give their relatives priority on the waiting list; Board members who intimidate whistle-blowers by raising their rents, trying to evict them with no grounds, trying to throw them off the Board and denying them "reasonable accommodation".

Are there enough grounds to generate a class action suit too? More than likely. There are residents who have been denied lateral transfer requests that have now have been granted to a Board member; applicants who have been turned down in favor of Board members’ relatives and for other reasons that apply sternly to outside applicants yet do not seem to apply to Board members – such as using notarized statements of dependency in order to qualify for a unit; applicants who were turned down because one Board member didn’t like their vibs; applicants whose appeals were denied for unclear reasons, etc.

We’ve also lost income from vacant units because of Board actions that benefitted Board members at the cost of getting those units filled. Here’s a suggestion to solve that problem. How about the Board member and relative who wants a ground floor unit trading places with the Board member’s daughter who wants a three-bedroom unit? Then everyone will have what they want and we won’t get sued. End of problem.

Yes, we’ve lost a lot under the guidance of the Board member alliance that has run this co-op with an iron hand for the last 20 years. And what will we lose next? Our leaking roofs? Our soggy back yards? Our old carpets, our flaking paint, or broken shingles? Nope. Trust me. Those items are here for good!

PS: If any of the current Board members wish to resign due to conflicts of interest or to avoid legal liability claims, I would more than understand. Or else we can either fire the whole Board and just start again or close down the Board altogether, not be a co-op any more and just pay rent like everyone else.