By Bill Morris
Dec. 10, 2010 — Some years ago, the satirical group Chicago City Limits presented a sketch in which two tough-talking neo-Nazis forced a confession out of a frightened prisoner. The gag? He was a co-op applicant. The image of co-op boards hasn't changed much since: power-hungry prima donnas, arbitrary and capricious, who give benefits to themselves that they don't give to others.
In response to this perception, State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) this past May offered up the latest version of a legislation that has been introduced regularly since 1988. Her bill, S7958, which is now before the finance committee, would create an "Office of the Cooperative and Condominium Ombudsman."
That office would seek to educate co-op / condo dwellers and professionals about their legal rights and responsibilities. It would also monitor board elections; mediate disputes; and conduct public hearings. The ombudsman could subpoena witnesses and question them under oath, and could also require any books or papers relevant to any dispute. The salaried position would be appointed by the state attorney general. The money for that and related office expenses would come from an annual $6 fee charged to every co-op and condo unit in the state.