Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Too Much Time on His Hands

You would think that with the legislative session wrapping up this week and major state business yet to be finished, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver would have his hands full. But apparently he has plenty of time to insinuate himself into the private affairs of a co-op in his district.

East River Housing is a residential cooperative on the Lower East Side. (Full disclosure: I'm a shareholder and resident in East River. Silver is not.) Hit with a number of increased costs affecting co-ops throughout the city--including property taxes, fuel oil and insurance--the board has been hard-pressed to raise revenues. One no-brainer for the board to target was the co-op's way-below-market parking lot. Parking there is an absurdly low $75 a month, compared to rates of $250-$300 a month at commercial lots in the neighborhood. What makes the situation especially absurd is that the lot can serve only about 400 of the more than 1,700 residents at East River. As a result, most shareholders are on a waiting list that stretches out over 15 years for a coveted spot for their car.

A few weeks ago, the board wisely decided to double the monthly parking fee to $150, still well below market. While the decision was greeted with rare near-unanimous approval by the shareholders, a few crybabies have been throwing tantrums because their perk got a little less sweet. It's not like anybody's heating bill or maintenance was doubled, after all. We're talking about a luxury that is easy to opt out of (very few people actually need a car in NYC, and they can always park free on the street) and is available only to a fraction of shareholders.

That would all normally be no big deal, just typical NYC co-op drama. Only some of the crybabies decided to complain to Sheldon Silver's office. And, incredibly, Silver actually took the crybabies' side in a letter to the East River manager.

Does Silver not understand that the financial decisions of a private cooperative are no business of elected public officials? I'm sure he does--he's not stupid. More likely, it's just a cosmically cynical attempt at pandering to some noisy constituents. Heaven forbid a politician actually admit that there are some issues in which he just shouldn't be involved.


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