The Seward Park Garage
Our garage has been the subject of great expense, inconvenience, litigation, and rumor. I've dug into a number of issues. Here are my findings.
The jury in the garage insurance claim lawsuit against the Greater New York Insurance Company (GNY) recently returned a winning verdict for Seward Park. The verdict includes $12 Million in damages plus interest, for a total of approximately 16.5M.
But it’s not over yet. GNY can try to have the verdict set aside and, if unsuccessful, can appeal the verdict. Therefore, though we expect to prevail, there is no guarantee that we will. During the course of these attempts, interest charges of about $90K per month would be added to the award. At any point, GNY can also make us an offer to settle the case for a lower amount. In any case, we don't expect to see a final resolution until the end of 2005.
Another garage lawsuit was settled without such positive results. UltraEast, the former garage operator, sued us in an effort to return as the garage operator for another ten years. We settled the lawsuit for $350,000 (our insurance company paid about $20,000). The new garage will realize about $56,000 per year more than the old garage operated by UltraEast, but it will take quite some time to recover from the judgement.
I obtained from Mitch Kupfer, former chair of the Garage Committee, a list of spots and users, and set out to investigate a number of questions that are often raised about the garage. I found that management of the garage is very dynamic, with new motorcycle spots being added regularly, new vehicles replacing old ones, and shareholders registering multiple vehicles for their spots. Mr. Kupfer, was able to answer all my questions with his uncanny ability to recite information on virtually any spot or vehicle — but to my dismay, documentation of many details is not up-of-date and is distributed across so many files and lists that it was impossible for me to verify much of the information. For example, a quick check revealed that about 15% of the spaces in the indoor garage are occupied by cars that were not recorded on my list. Mr. Kupfer defends this, saying that there are many shareholders with alternate vehicles registered for their spaces, and that such information is well-documented on other lists. This may be so, but such a bad filing system is worrisome nonetheless.
The garage is currently managed by the Board in order to save the hefty $50,000 that, according to Kupfer, Cooper Square would charge to manage it for us.* I don't disagree with this as a fiscal decision, but I do object if the result of the Board's management is a system rife with unaccountability. What is desperately needed is some sort of database where all garage information is consolidated and maintained.
The garage accomodates about 400 cars and fifteen motorcycles. According to Mr. Kupfer, it produces a net income of about $280,000 per year. At $95/$75 per month for indoor/outdoor spots it is significantly less expensive than most commercial lots.
The garage houses a portable battery charger and air compresser that are available for use by Shareholders.
* I was advised by Board Member Don West that "Cooper Square was supposed to manage the garage including maintaining the waiting list and issuing stickers as per our negotiations prior to signing their management contract at no extra charge." Mitch Kupfer declined to back up his numbers or rationale for having the Board manage the garage.