Recession Reaction

April 7, 2010 at 9:21 pm 1 comment

You know that a small cup of coffee at Starbucks on Continental is $1.63 now, right? This is down from $1.90 (really, $2, if you routinely tipped with the dime). So glad they finally figured out that if people are thinking more these days about how they spend their less-money, sooner or later they are going to give some thought to their daily caffeine expenditure. Don’t know how long this will last–the baristas seem similarly clueless on this–but I can say that an a.m. visit is definitely more doable at this price.

But it won’t be for the food. Once Starbucks posted calorie/fat counts, that was the end of even an occasional bout of indulgence. And apparently, I am not the only one who is thinking this way. I’m still safe at Martha’s, though, which is not obligated to post nutrition info about its products, so there are still no calories or fat in their cappuccino muffins.

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Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

QCH at Risk Some Things Won’t Die

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Queens Tribune  |  February 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Forest Hills This Week: Taking A Stand For Co-Op Justice

    The perils of share ownership within a co-op or condo are numerous. The burden is spread out, typically leaving all to deal with the possible misdeeds of a board.

    But one Kew Gardens Resident is navigating the waters alone, singlehandedly confronting what she claims is a board corrupted by money and power.

    Elizabeth O’Keefe Kuzio, a 70-year-old shareholder at the Steven House, 84-25 118th St., has filled a suit, sans attorney, against the co-op’s board to have them removed.

    “It is corruption within the building, not only in the board,” she said. “They are acting out of their authority. The management is corrupt. The lawyers are corrupt.”

    Kuzio alleges that the continued re-election of the board is an ongoing sham, designed to keep the current board members in power while scaring possible opponents away.

    Their attorney disagrees.

    “You have a hard working board that has made some changes, but she doesn’t like them,” said Abbey Goldstein, legal counsel for the board members and co-op. “Not only did the board not do anything improper, I think they’ve acted proactively in the best interest of the co-op, trying to get it back on its course.”

    Kuzio’s allegations are familiar to many shareholders within the City – increases in maintenance fees and assessments all while her cost of living goes up, but the actual quality of life diminishes.

    The new board was elected in 2006, and Kuzio said she stuck around to act as secretary under the new President Mauro Villacreses for two months before leaving.

    Villacreces came to the helm of Steven House at a time when the co-op was in admitted financial peril. Impropriety by the previous board and management company left the co-op’s coffers thin.

    But according to Kuzio, the bad fiscal times did not merit seven new assessments in four years.

    “[Villacreses] said they were still paying bills,” Kuzio said. “We just said show us the bills. They never did.”

    The hiring of Goldstein’s firm, Goldstein and Greenlaw, has also drawn Kuzio’s ire. The firm’s oversight of elections, which costs the co-op $1,800.00 a year, as well as regular attendance at other supposedly banal events like shareholder meetings, gives the firm’s involvement an air of impropriety, according to Kuzio.

    She also claims the co-op has held onto at least $20,000 in tax abatements owed to shareholders every year under the new board’s tenure.

    Goldstein claims the collection of assessments to offset the doling out of tax abatements is common.

    “It’s perfectly legal and it’s a way to help balance a co-op’s budget,” he said.

    In addition to all her troubles, the co-op has notified Kuzio of complaints from her upstairs neighbors, who ar upset about her hitting her ceiling and shouting.

    Kuzio admitted she has used the method to keep her upstairs neighbors quiet – or at the very least show her displeasure.

    “If you’re above me, you want to move out, move,” Kuzio said. “[Villacreses] had them print letters that I traumatized them, I threatened them. I’m an 80 pound, 70-year-old woman with bladder cancer.”

    Kuzio acknowledges she’s the only one vocally fighting the board, but claims a number of shareholders stand behind her efforts.

    “The shareholders in this building are intimidated by the board of directors, but they’re afraid of retribution,” she said.

    Kuzio’s claims are all too familiar for some unfortunate sharholders, according to Alliance of Co-op and Condo Owners President Larry Simms, but she’s addressing them the wrong way.

    “The biggest problem in a situation like that is you go to court and if you do everything right, six months will pass if you’r lucky, the judge will say havea new election, “Simms, said. “And there is no good mechanism to make sure the election is done or monitored properly.”

    AACCO is currently pushing an Ombudsman Bill that would create an oversight wing within the state government for co-op and condo owners.

    “I almost never try to do things through courts because it’s so slow and so costly,” Simms said. “I tendto advocate guerrilla action.”

    The same democratic process used to put the board in place could be used to create a groundswell of voters and candidates to run against them, Simms said.

    Kuzio, ufazed, is currently waiting to begin the trial.

    Reach Reporter Joseph Orovic at jorovic@queenstribune.com, or (718)357-7400, Ext.127.
    — Joseph Orovic

    Reply

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