Corporate and Real Estate Clinic

Representing Financially Distressed Low-Income Cooperatives in all Boroughs

Increasing affordable housing units in New York City is a two-pronged effort involving both the construction of new units and the preservation of existing affordable units. Brooklyn Law School students are in the forefront of the preservation effort in the Corporate and Real Estate Clinic which provides free legal assistance for financially distressed low-income cooperatives (also known as Housing Development Fund Corporations or HDFC’s) where many of the City’s affordable units are found. Approximately twenty-five of these co-ops in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx—representing over 400 units of housing—receive help each year from eight to ten students each semester. The clinic does not handle any litigation, but students do assist with:

  • Loan closings (to pay for rehabilitation work and tax arrears)
  • Shareholder meetings (for elections, by-law and proprietary lease amendments, and approvals of regulatory agreements)
  • Unit closings on behalf of co-op boards (either when the co-op owns the unit or is acting as transfer agent when a shareholder sells).  The clinic generally does not represent individual buyers and sellers.
  • No-action letters and building transfers for not-for-profit HDFCs seeking to become business corporations.
  • Consultations regarding policies and other on-going issues.
  • Applications for real estate tax forgiveness and real estate tax caps.
  • Removal of expired mortgages and agreements with the City.

Once or twice a year students also present seminars for numerous co-op board members and shareholders on current issues of concern.

Students gain unique transactional experience, learning to resolve title issues, review and negotiate loan documents, draft and negotiate contracts of sale, conduct closings, advise board of directors, and organize shareholder meetings.

The Corporate and Real Estate Clinic is affiliated with the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (“CUBE”).

Spring Semester 2016 Highlights

  • Jonathan Wong ’17 - in the Classroom.

    Ninety board members from low income co-ops attended a training session at BLS on Thursday April 21 conducted by Advanced Corporate and Real Estate Clinic student, Jonathan Wong (’17), and Professor Debbie Bechtel. The Board members learned about analyzing affordable housing restrictions, obtaining mortgage satisfactions, using the City’s on-line building information system and understanding real estate tax exemptions. There are over 1300 of these buildings in New York City which constitute a crucial source of affordable housing. Professor Bechtel’s clinic has provided free legal services for these buildings for the past 19 years.

  • When ownership of units in low-income cooperatives is embroiled in estate disputes or maintenance obligations are ignored by shareholders who have moved out of state, the financial implications can be dire for the co-op. Two teams of clinic students tackled these situations for Brooklyn buildings this semester. Chris Saverino (’17) and David Jason (’17) handled one involving negotiations over maintenance arrears, late fees and the cost of repair work which, when combined with the re-sale fees, totaled $70,000 received by the co-op. Another handled by Dean Focarile (’16) and Jill Bledsoe (’16) involved negotiations over a power of attorney and removal of a violation attributable to the departing shareholder. The co-op obtained $50,000 for maintenance arrears, re-sale fees and violation costs. In both instances, the students drafted closing documents and conducted the closings, after completing the negotiations.

    Christopher Saverino ’17
    & David Jason ’17

    Jillian Bledsoe ’16
    & Dean Focarile ‘16

  • Yisroel Katz ’17
    & Jed Russell ‘17

    Remaining current in tax payments is another struggle for struggling low-income co-ops. Two student teams worked with Brooklyn buildings whose boards decided to borrow money from a credit union to resolve their problems. A Greenpoint co-op attempting to borrow $113,000 presented particular challenges for Yisroel Katz (’17) and Jed Russell (’17) because the proposed conversion of a ground floor space from commercial to residential use concerned the lender. The students reviewed architect letters, drafted lease amendments and negotiated loan agreement revisions to cope with the situation. In addition, they drafted an opinion letter and various resolutions as well as obtaining a satisfaction of mortgage and resolving other title issues before conducting the closing in April.

    Ruthy Matai-Sanchez ’17
    & Ronald Rosenbaum ‘16

    Ruthy Matai-Sanchez (’17) and Ronnie Rosenbaum (’16) worked with a Canarsie co-op to close on a $345,000 loan to pay delinquent taxes and complete some repairs. The students dealt with two previous mortgages which had been paid but not satisfied on the record. They also discussed numerous objections with the title company and negotiated an escrow agreement. Ruthy and Ronnie conducted the closing in April after drafting the opinion letter, resolutions and other closing documents.

Brooklyn Law School - Clinics Education

Learn more about our Clinical Education Experience.

Have questions? We have answers.

Co-op boards (and dissident shareholder groups) seeking assistance may contact:

Debra Bechtel
Associate Professor of Clinical Law
111 Livingston Street
Telephone: (718) 780-7994
Fax: (718) 780-0367