City, state need better oversight of co-ops
Jan 30, 2018 | 2886 views | 1 1 comments | 164 164 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, the former president of a Williamsburg co-op board was sentenced to one to three years in prison for the corruption that took place under her watch.

Justice was a longtime coming for the residents of the 2,700-unit Lindsay Park apartments.

For a decade-and-a-half, Cora Austin took kickbacks from contractors hired to do work in apartments, while the buildings fell into a state of total disrepair and the co-op racked up massive debt.

Corruption at the city's cooperative apartments, an innovative idea that allowed the middle-class to enter the realm of home ownership, is far too easy to get away with.

Disinterested apartment owners, or shareholders, rarely care to be bothered with all of the minutiae of running the corporation, generally leaving that task to the board, which more often than not consists of one or two people who actually take an active interest.

If those folks are dishonest, it's far too easy to use the corporation for their own personal gain, as the board is usually stacked with people they have handpicked to serve and there is almost no oversight on the part of the state or city.

However, that's not exactly what happened at Lindsay Park. For nearly all of Austin's tenure as president, a group of concerned residents filed complaints with the city's Housing and Preservation Development (HPD) agency that something stunk in Lindsay Park.

Their maintenance fees were constantly on the rise – a not insignificant fact considering Lindsay Park is a Mitchell-Lama development and caters to middle-income households on tight budgets – while the elevators failed, building facades crumbled, and oil tanks leaked.

Meanwhile, Austin was receiving kickbacks from contractors who were hired to do one or two repairs in apartments, only to pad the job with unnecessary work and higher bills, giving some of the extra money back to Austin.

But HPD did little to address the situation, and residents were finally forced to turn to former Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson to shine a light on what was transpiring at Lindsay Park.

In this case, as Lindsay Park is a Mitchell-Lama development and subject to stricter oversight, there was actually a level of governance that should have been in place, but the city failed to take action.

However, there is very little recourse for residents in regular co-ops who find themselves at the mercy of a corrupt board.

Either the state Attorney General, which is responsible for ratifying articles of incorporation, or HPD needs a dedicated staff to investigate complaints of mismanagement and corruption in the city's co-ops.

If they don't, one of the city's last options for affordable middle-class home ownership could be at stake.
Comments
(1)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Peter Cintron
|
February 04, 2018
It is a sad time when our voices are not heard. We try to get the news

media to get involved and really make a big stink as to what is happening. Into looking at the new management company. Metro management Development. I read nothing but negative reviews on the internet. The only positive ones has been from their employees. Now if you were giving me a paycheck I am not going to write anything negative about the company. Those reviews I am going to ignore. My question right now is whose decision was to hire that management company. As Cooperators don't we have a say so as to who is going to handle our funds? Whose decision was this. I hope that it was not up to the board of directors. Something that should be disbanded and started all over from scratch. We don't want those ideas that were implanted by Cora to live on with the new board. N o more favors please. Let's handle this like a proper business. This is our future. Everyone needs to speak up and nip this in the bud. Now we have a chance to do something about it.

Who is trying to run the show right now? We need answers and I will not ask the board of directors. They have no tack and have not learned any communication skills. a couple of the board has brought in the Brooklyn Project mentality. I think as we grow older we should try to bring a little order into lives and be able to rest assured that our housing needs are being met. I am making a fold er as to what is going on. I am making sure that everything has a paper trail. We all need to complain to the proper parties and let them know that we are watching them. This is our money they are messing with.