CoOp Boards: Owners’ Committees Determine Who is Allowed to Move in Many of the Most Sought-After Residential Buildings

6:00 am  |  02.12.2021

In many of Manhattan’s venerable, exclusive residential buildings, you can’t just buy an apartment. No, if you want to live here, you have to acquire shares in a cooperative that entitles you to do so. The whole thing is called “Housing Cooperative” or “CoOp” for short.


The CoOp system offers a decisive advantage – you can choose your neighbors. If you own a normal condominium (called a condominium or simply a condo in the USA), you have no control over who the homeowner sells the other apartments to. In a CoOp, on the other hand, you decide together with the other shareholders who are allowed to move in. Nobody comes into the house without the approval of these notorious CoOp boards.

Conservatism: You Cannot Hide

740 Park Avenue, PH 17/18D New York

Many of Manhattan’s most sought-after CoOp buildings are on the Gold Coast, a section of the Upper East Side roughly between 60th and 80th Streets, Fifth Avenue, and Park Avenue. The CoOp boards in this area are known and feared to be extremely strict. Potential shareholders must be of impeccable social repute, or what the ladies and gentlemen on the Owners’ Committee think it is.

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This should then be combined with immense wealth – some of the cooperatives require 100 million dollars in cash as an application criterion and buy the apartment, which costs millions of dollars, entirely from their own resources, without a mortgage.

It is up to the realtor to decide who is allowed to see the apartment from among the interested parties. They know, for example, that many of the top addresses do not want new rich roommates, and also nobody who is in the limelight in any way.

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A $39.5 Million Penthouse at 740 Park Avenue

Bringing in the wrong clients would damage the broker’s relationship with the building board, and so they prefer to be over-cautious. A few years ago, legendary broker Dolly Lenz had Mariah Carey as a client. She actually got an appointment with a CoOp board that is known to be particularly strict. Dolly instructed Mariah to dress conservatively, almost like a funeral. The singer appeared in a miniskirt and skimpy top instead and was promptly rejected. She is not alone: ​​Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Nixon are among the celebrities who have not made it into certain CoOps. But for every case that comes to light, there are presumably a few others that the public doesn’t even know about.

Application Procedure

If you have successfully completed the first cut and have been shortlisted, a rigorous application procedure follows: You have to provide detailed information about your entire financial situation, of course with the relevant documents. Personal circumstances too, e.g. B. divorces, interest the CoOp Board. If the applicant wants to bring a dog, the four-legged friend usually has to introduce himself.

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Even a recommendation from the highest authority doesn’t always help. A few years ago then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of New York’s richest men, called 89-year-old Jayne Wrightsman. Mrs. Wrightsman, the widow of an oil baron, was one of the most active members of the CoOp Board at 820 Fifth Avenue. Bloomberg campaigned for real estate mogul Jeff Blau, who wanted to move in with his Harvard doctorate wife. However, the offer was rejected. Blue, who grew up the son of a plumber in a working-class neighborhood in Queens, probably didn’t have enough “blue blood,” that is, not the correct pedigree.

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Old Money

The Fifth Avenue Home of Jayne Wrightsman 

740 Park Avenue is arguably the most legendary CoOp building in New York. The author Michael Gross even wrote an entire book about it: “740 Park Avenue – The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building”. About the world of the venerable, exclusive CoOps he says: “They are the last bastions of old money. An ideal world in which one can cling to traditional values ​​and social norms. They are islands in the middle of New York. “

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Nevertheless, the golden age of the CoOps may be over. Real estate agent Barbara Fox told the New York Observer, “If the committees don’t loosen up and adapt to new circumstances, there could be problems for the next few years. We don’t live in the same world as we did 40 or 50 years ago. The buildings also need younger people. 

820 Park Avenue, 12th Floor New York, NY 10021 

There are young people with a lot of money who may not meet other requirements. Here the old manorial CoOps should become more sociable so as not to be overtaken by time. In the last few years, some sensational houses have been completed and more are coming. They can be bought relatively easily as condominiums. You don’t have the old money ’prestige of the CoOps, but many other advantages. And apart from the money, you need relatively little there. The next few years will be interesting.”

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