Cooperatively Yours is holding a meeting on June 1 in the community room, open to all cooperators, on a topic of general interest to all shareholders (East River’s pet policy). Once again we have laid out the funds for renting the room — $325 (plus a $200 refundable deposit) and are — once again — asking that the room be made available for free for this purpose.
In the past, the board and management have flip-flopped on this request, even once giving us the room for free “by mistake.” Last spring, the board replied to our request by saying that cooperators are not tenants, and therefore not protected by New York’s landlord-tenant laws, even though cooperators’ legal status as tenants is a central difference between a coop and a condo. In February, when I delivered a letter requesting free use of the room to every member of the board and house committee I received no official response at all (not even acknowledgement of receipt).
Might as well try again, right? Yesterday I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as the few board members who have made their email addresses public, with the request below. At the end of the day I received a phone call from Shulie Wollman, Assistant General Manager, who told me that he had spoken with board president Gary Altman who had decided that no refund would be made.
Here’s the request, with links to (ir)relevant laws:
Cooperatively Yours is holding a meeting on Monday, June 1 in the community room, open to all cooperators, to discuss the coop’s current pet policy and to develop potential alternatives to that policy that will be presented to shareholders and the board of directors.
I would like to request that the $325 fee for use of the community room for this meeting be refunded, not just as a matter of policy, but a matter of law.
As you may be aware, cooperators are both stockholders of a corporation and also tenants of that same corporation. Section 216 of the U.S. Code Title 26 defines owners in a cooperative housing corporation as “tenant-stockholders” (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/216). East River’s most recent audited financial statement refers to cooperators as “tenant-stockholders” no fewer than 23 times. All cooperators also sign a proprietary lease, which further determines their designation as tenants.
As such, cooperators enjoy the protection of New York’s Landlord-Tenant laws. This is a well-known distinction between coops and condos, and one of the primary legal advantages of buying a coop. Section 230 of those laws grants tenants the right to form and participate in “any group, committee or other organization formed to protect the rights of tenants” and “to meet without being required to pay a fee in any location on the premises including a community or social room” (http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/RPP/7/230).
Any clear reading of these laws leads to the conclusion that Cooperatively Yours must not be required to pay a fee to use the community room for discussions of general interest to all cooperators.