Volume 73, Number 39 | January 28 - February 03, 2004

Some at Village View oppose renovation of lobbies

By Melanie Wallis

The Village View co-op apartment complex in the East Village, is experiencing disruption among its shareholders due to proposed plans to carry out extensive work on all seven of the buildings’ lobbies. An estimated 300 of the development’s 1,400 residents congregated for their first Quality of Life Committee community meeting on Jan 22. A major concern at the meeting was the lobby renovation plan put forward by Village View’s 15 elected board members.

The complex’s management company, Cooper Square Realty, is renovating the lobbies to bring them into compliance with the American Disabilities Act. However, some of the residents feel the proposed plan is too expensive and badly designed. They charge that there has only been one disabled resident who sued the Mitchell-Lama co-op under the Human Rights Act of New York City to make alterations so she could access her mailbox. Some shareholders feel Cooper Square is using this one case as a justification to force the renovation, for which Cooper Square gets a percentage fee.

“From our understanding of A.D.A. law, it only requires one lobby to install one small ramp and this should have been done four years ago to answer the [one] resident’s request” said a Village View shareholder, who requested anonymity. “Village View needs repairs and restoration not gentrification and renovation,” the resident added.

Robert La Valva, an architect and secretary of Village View’s board, claims the proposed work is a necessity to meet the requirements of the lawsuit by the one resident and to preempt further accessibility requests. For example, he said, the laundry room and mailboxes area both lack handicapped access.

“A ramp had been implemented in one of the buildings 10 years ago. However the ramp does not comply with A.D.A. regulations,” La Valva said. “To fit a ramp that fits A.D.A. [width] specifications, they would have to knock out a wall, and that only addresses the mailbox access. We looked at all alternatives, including lowering the floor and implementing ramps,” he continued, “but the current plan brings the lobby to one level, which the Human Rights Commission is very pleased with, as this is preferable for people with wheelchairs” La Valva said.

He holds that the plan is not “lavish,” and would use basic materials. The work is estimated to cost $840,000 for the seven lobbies, and is already covered by the financial maintenance plan implemented two years ago to address restoration and major capital improvement, La Valva noted.

The board also maintains that work on repairs and restoration is continuing simultaneously to the lobby renovations.

The department of Housing Preservation and Development, which regulates Village View as a Mitchell-Lama development, has approved the loans needed to carry out the work and renovations are planned to start within the next month.

The development’s Quality of Life Committee will be holding another meeting on Feb. 9 to continue looking into the issue.


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