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Helping owners learn the rules.

As the president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of New York (BOMA-NY), John H.K. Belt is helping fellow industry members understand the plethora of rules and regulations that govern the real estate industry.

"You cannot survive in the industry as a professional owner in many ways without knowing them," he said.

Americans with Disabilities Act, Local Law 5, electrical codes, elevator codes, fire regulations, environmental rules ...

"Those were the ones that reported at today's meeting," said Belt, having just concluded a meeting of the codes committees.

"Our mission, one of our missions, is the dissemination of information and to help people own and manage better," he said.

Belt is serving a one-year term as the leader of the industry organization that represents 750 owners, managers and allied professionals in New York City.

The organization dispenses information with the help its membership, which, Belt says, is knowledgeable and active. He thumbed through a "white paper" on Water Treatment, compiled by a panel of BOMA professionals, which represent top environmental firms, owners and managers. Belt said it is a "dynamic piece of work."

"It has enough technical material, but it is still readable," he said. "It is immensely readable."

Coping with ADA

The organization has also created white papers on a new and troublesome regulation for the industry - The Americans with Disabilities Act. The publications explore signage, training, ADA visual alarms and handicap standards for elevator requirements.

"These are going to be used to educate our members on the intricacies and pitfalls of this legislation," he said.

The law has generated such a profusion of questions and confusion, Belt said, because its language is so unclear. Unfortunately, he said, definitive explanations will be only be found in the courts after owners are sued.

"It's very difficult to do business under this indecision," Belt said.

The leader of BOMA stresses, however, that the organization supports the principles behind the law and advocates compliance.

"Our objection is to the method by which they made us comply and this loose language by which you could only get a definite answer in court," he said.

An owner, he said, might make a good faith effort that could be interpreted as non-compliance. Then, he said, the owner is burdened with the cost of legally defending himself and removing and re-installing the compliance measure.

"It's a no-win situation and the cost of doing business by these regulations has yet to be determined," he said.

Belt knows the difficulties of code compliance first hand. In addition to leading BOMA, a position he said is quite demanding, he is president of the 58-64 40th Street Corp., a family-run business that owns and operates commercial properties in New York City.

During the 29 years since he entered the business, Belt said, he has seen the regulatory responsibility for commercial owners increase to the onerous level traditionally associated with residential real estate.

"The commercial end of the industry caught up or surpassed the enormous paperwork our residential brethren have lived under for generations, he said.

"It's not only trying to interpret [the regulation], it's trying to put it into everyday use," he said.

The enactment of the ADA, Belt said, in one way, increases the city's competitiveness with other cities. "It's a cost that everyone has to share, not just New York City," he said.

While slightly less costly, Belt said, New York City's Local Law 58, which provides for accessibility for the disabled in all new and renovated structures, helped prepare owners for the challenges of the ADA.

BOMA-New York is the largest affiliate of BOMA International, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1907, the organization boasts 15,000 members in its 100 local associations. Its members own or manage 5 billion square feed of office space. Belt said BOMA International is a clearing house for the affiliates and it has published two guides on the ADA - Opening Doors and ADA Compliance Guidebook: A Checklist for your Building.

BOMA New York, Belt said, "interfaces" with the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) on a number of issues such as the clean air regulations.

"I view it as to be heard in the legislative process is really a joint effort of various professional organizations in real estate, "he said.

Belt serves on the Buildings Code and Regulations Committee of the Real Estate Board. He is a former director of the Management Division of REBNY and he was a recipient of its "Management Man of the Year" designation in 1983.

Belt is also an active member of the Institute of Real Estate Managers (IREM) Local Chapter No. 26. He served as president for 1976 and 1977. He was also a member of the executive committee. In 1976, with Belt as president, the chapter tied for the "Most Improved Chapter of the Year" and, in 1977, was voted "Outstanding Chapter of the Year, Gold-Large Category." On the national level of IREM, he has served as vice chairman of the Membership Committee and as a member of the National Governing Council.

Belt is still associated with IREM and continues to conduct a job referral service that he started in 1975. He said he doesn't really vouch for anyone but matches Certified Professional Managers (CPMs) with potential employers.

Belt has served on the board of BOMA for the past 11 years and he has represented the Association on the New York City Fire Department's Industry Advisory Board. In the 12 years that he has been active in BOMA, Belt said, it has grown from an organization with five committees to a group of 40 committees, sub-committees and task forces. And many of those, he said, have sprung up in the last three of four years.

"It's been a huge growth," he said.

In addition to education on rules and regulations, BOMA-NY's other missions include: establishing a pro-active role in government, assisting members develop their careers, and providing and supporting educational programs.

The industry's cries are finally being listened to by some regulators who, Belt said, acknowledge that the high cost of code compliance impacts an owner's bottom line and, as a result, the amount of taxes he pays.

"Now the regulators realize that real estate tax income is directly tied up to rules and regulations," Belt said. "The assessment is determined by the income level."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:address by John H.K. Belt, president of Building Owners and Managers Association of New York
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 3, 1992
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