More than 200 residents of the Parkway Village co-op turned out last Thursday in what they said was an ongoing dispute with management over increasing fees and expenses.
The group met around the flagpole at the 37-acre, 685-unit complex.
“Why are we paying $75 a month to park?” asked resident Linda Carlino. “Why are the owners of a two-bedroom unit paying $1,400 a month in maintenance fees?”
Numerous residents spoke at the evening rally, most upset with the co-op’s board in general and what some called staggering cost increases.
Residents said they have not seen a copy of the 2010 budget, and that they would like to see an audit of the co-op’s books. Others wondered how the board can afford a new security building and new officers.
Two women said workers employed to do maintenance and construction may not have the proper skills, licenses or bonding.
“If one of those workers gets hurt and the contractor isn’t bonded, we’re liable,” said one resident.
The buildings were put up in 1947, part of the effort to house workers with the brand-new United Nations.
In recent years, shareholders in the co-op have been hit with a number of big-ticket expenses, including a $20 million mortgage in 1998; replacement of the entire original heating system and the abatement and removal of asbestos that was found on the site around miles of underground pipes.
In 2008 the board reached a $70,000 settlement with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations, negotiating down from an initial fine of $117,000.
Board members and co-op management did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment on the rally, but a few residents in attendance said they are happy with management, and that the rally organizers are a relatively small group of malcontents.
“They’re not telling you everything, or they’re ignorant about what’s going on,” said one woman.
But former board member Shermila Bharat, who said she was on the board five years ago when the asbestos was found on the pipes, is concerned about the current leadership.
“They spent $20 million on a heating system that is falling apart,” she said. “And there is no financial accountability.”
Bharat said even the owner of a one-bedroom unit can expect to pay $1,000 per month in maintenance fees.
She said parking fees have gone from $15 to $75 in a five-year period.
She and others said they fear the community could go bankrupt.
A handful of the residents said they felt intimidated by board members and management, and Carlino said immigrant residents, especially those having difficulty with English, were especially vulnerable to such pressure.
“You are allowed to speak up,” Carlino told the crowd. “This is the United States of America.”
Other residents attending the rally said they had not made up their minds and wanted to get more information.
“I have several concerns,” said Verna Evans-Hodler. “But I’m willing to listen to both sides.”