Trying to shed some light on Village View finances


By Albert Amateau

The panic that swept through Village View Houses in the East Village when Con Edison threatened on July 7 to cut off electricity to the 1,235 apartments for nonpayment, calmed down a week later when the building manager said the bill had been paid, albeit a few days late, and that there was no danger of residents sweltering in the dark.

But the close call has prompted some residents to question Cooper Square Management, the group that runs the seven-building Mitchell-Lama co-op, and the co-op board of directors.

Oleh Pich, a resident of the complex for more than 10 years who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board at last year’s election, is saying the board and the management have not been sharing information with residents about the co-op finances.

Pich went online to the Con Edison payment history for Village View and discovered what he said was a discrepancy between $939,442 that the co-op reported it paid for electricity in the previous 2003-2004 fiscal year and the total for 2003-2004 of about $660,000 in the Con Edison payment history on Village View account No. 494024608000001.

But the accountant for Village View, Mark Cohen, of Boom & Streit, said this week that the co-op has two accounts because it is so large — the account with the $660,000 and another on which the co-op paid about $300,000. The late payment that prompted the Con Edison threat in July was on the former account that Pich examined online.

“It’s common for Con Edison to have two separate accounts for very large developments,” said Cohen, noting that the second account ran about $20,000 a month but more in high-use hot months.

The two electric bills divided the Village View electric usage without reference to apartments or public areas, even though one account was much larger than the other, said Cohen.

The late payment in July that prompted the Con Edison threat was attributable to rising operating costs and maintenance increases that came too late to cover them, according to a letter to residents from Don Haslett, resident manager.

“The 9 percent maintenance increase that we were granted on June 1, 2005, addresses the fact of rising costs,” the letter said. But while the increase was requested in December 2004, it was approved six months later by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which has jurisdiction on Mitchell-Lama projects like Village View.

However, Pich and some of his neighbors, including Bertolt Von Zakheim, say the board has not provided sufficient access to Village View finances. “The board and Cooper Square are not transparent and H.P.D. hasn’t done anything to assure transparency,” said Pich.

Ceres Shulman, president of the co-op board, defended the way Cooper Square Management has been running the complex since 2001 when the company replaced Matthew Adams, the previous management. The co-op, built in 1964, has had to deal with deferred maintenance and is currently involved in a sorely-needed widow replacement project and work on the facade and terraces of the complex, Shulman said.

One of the seven buildings in the Village View Houses complex between First Ave. and Avenue A.