New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Habitat Playbill

It was a different time. A time of enthusiasm and growth, of a "conversion rush" among the apartment houses in New York City. The year was 1982, and cooperatives were converting at a record pace.

That was also the year of Habitat. In May 1982, the first issue of N.Y. Habitat was born. Founded by Carol Ott, a former journalist, the magazine was a direct result of Ott's experiences in the Big Apple. She moved to New York from Washington, D.C. in 1978, liked the amount of space a loft offered but was baffled by the complex maze of loft regulations. There was no book on the subject, so she researched, wrote, and published one herself. Titled Paradise Loft: A Forthright Guide to Buying a Loft in New York City, it was followed by a tabloid-sized, monthly newsletter, The Loft Letter, which was read by the city's 15,000 (mostly illegal) loft dwellers.

When the city began to focus on the rental status of loft residents, Ott changed her focus to owners of co-ops. Folding the paper, Ott began N.Y. Habitat. It quickly established its presence and purpose: educating board directors and property managers about what it means to govern and operate their cooperatives. The publication was successful because it gave readers a signpost, telling them what to expect from government, professionals, and themselves. As George Hahn, a management executive, wrote to Ott in May 1982: "N.Y. Habitat is not only an idea whose time has come, it is an idea that has long been overdue.

Many people have contributed to the magazine's success over the years. What follows are brief biographies of the key players.

Jacques Beauchamp
Photo Illustrator
First Issue: No. 7, March 1983

For 25 years, I have developed my own brand of conceptual photography for magazines and advertising and corporate clients. Habitat was the first magazine I worked for regularly in New York. Since then, my work has been published in more than 15 countries worldwide. To see more of my images, please visit my website at www.jacquesbeauchamp.com

When I reflect upon my 20 years of contribution to Habitat two words come to mind: experimentation and fun. Fun in the many cover-design brainstorming sessions with Carol, Tom, Bernie, and a few others (Lloyd and now Michael) where we all come up with ideas ranging from the most formal to the totally wacky ones with total creative freedom. Experimentation for hours (sometimes days) in my studio inventing new techniques in order to give reality to the ideas we agreed upon. Over the years, I have explored model building, set design, photographic special effects, and, in the last decade, computer imaging.

Thank you to Habitat for giving me the space to define my own style.

Lloyd Chrein
Managing Editor
First Issue: No. 30, October 1986

Lloyd worked alongside Carol Ott and Tom Soter to choose articles and themes for the magazine. He also wrote many articles and rounded up artwork (everyone loves those old movie stills!).

Since leaving the fold at Habitat, Lloyd has written for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and Money Magazine. In 1996, he won the first Online Journalism Award from American University School of Journalism for an interactive article in Money Online. He has also taught web development and online journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In 1997, Lloyd started his own web development company, Chrein.com, which has produced web sites for many real estate companies in the New York area. Lloyd is also a founder and partner of alphabetmedia, a web and multimedia development company that has recently turned its talents towards film production. In January 2002, alphabetmedia completed its first feature, Funny Valentine, which stars Anthony Michael Hall. The film is expected to be released on Valentine's Day, 2003.

"When I came to work for Habitat, I had first-hand experience in running a co-op — from the boiler room," says Lloyd. "I was a superintendent for a small cooperative in Chelsea, where I had a free apartment and plenty of time to freelance for New York magazines and newspapers. As the managing editor of Habitat, I became the go-to guy for all matters technical and plumbing-related. And I kept my handy repair manual on hand in case Carol ever needed something fixed. Good thing for her I wasn't a member of 32B-32J.

"I'd like to thank all the people who worked at Habitat, past and present, who made my time there enjoyable and productive. And I'd like to thank members of New York's real estate industry for being supportive throughout my journalism and web development careers. Finally, I'd like to thank my wife, Amy, who has stood by me through every dream that I've followed."

Liza Donnelly
Illustrator of "Case Notes" (and occasionally other things)
First Issue: No. 1, May 1982

Other accomplishments: Cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine for 21 years; written and illustrated seven children's books for Scholastic; cartoonist for Oxygen Media; conceived of and edited four collections of cartoons for Ballantine Books and Andrews & McMeel. Two beautiful children and a husband.

Personal memory: My association with N.Y. Habitat spans the length of my career as a cartoonist, which is no small thing! I remember, early on when Habitat was called The Loft Letter and was just a newsletter, walking from the 23rd street subway station to Carol's loft to deliver my drawing, feeling so important as an illustrator in New York City. Ah, those were the days.

It has been challenging working with the material, trying to understand the legalese each month and turn out a (hopefully) humorous drawing that somehow represents the legal case described in the case note. Some months have been quite a stretch, and I'm sure Tom Soter, my editor, would look at the drawing and wonder what planet I was on. But he never said anything.

Thank yous: First, to Carol Ott, for keeping me on for so long, and hiring me in the first place. Tom Soter, for being such a great editor, understanding and so funny (and forever reprinting my drawings, so I get more money every now and then). Thanks to Richard Siegler, for writing all those "Case Notes" for me to illustrate! And thanks to my husband, Michael, for putting up with my occasional groans of confusion as I tried to understand the "Case Notes" each month.

Michael Gentile
Art Director
First Issue: No. 168, May 2001

In the shadow of the Flatiron Building stands Habitat magazine, where only Carol J. Ott's trademark red hair is more recognizable than her hearty laugh.

Like Carol, the Habitat tone is not shy; it offers advice with personality and independence. That's pretty much what Carol's about; a sharp businesswoman, top-notch entrepreneur, and most importantly, she's a mom. But maybe you already know that.

It's hard to judge full impact on our first encounters. That's why trust is so important in the beginning. I got the feeling she could see where I was coming from leaving her office after my first interview. Our talk was lively and upbeat. We focused on some ideas on how to expand the Habitat prosperity. The time seemed right for positioning the magazine for some growth. By sharing the same enthusiasm and mindset about publishing, we saw the need to facilitate a new look and improve productivity. And yes, I got the job.

This part could easily be subtitled what I did for the last 20 years on a work vacation, or how I found an unexpected niche in the art world. The big first job after graduating from the Maryland Institute, College of Art was the weekly Baltimore City Paper, starting as a cartoonist and part-time paste-up production person. I eventually became their art director.

One October day, in the mid '80s, I visited California and decided to move on to Los Angeles. Working in Hollywood as a fashion magazine photo editor, I had some great "industry" moments.

A few years later, there was a phone call. Ex-City Paper publisher Russ Smith made me a job offer in New York. It was a new paper going up against the Village Voice. Sounded great. Everyone in L.A. said I belonged there, so I left.

In '88, with Smith, we founded New York Press where I served a successful 11-year stint as founding art director. The Manhattan arts weekly took off like lightning. At the Press, one of my main joys involved the development of a core of dependable freelancers. Many artists and cartoonists to whom I gave their first jobs have subsequently been published in numerous magazines, such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.

I'm still a painter and illustrator. The published work has appeared in House & Garden, NYLON, New York Press, L.A. Weekly, and Miami New Times. There's also been a recent show — a series of acrylic and watercolor paintings — at the Mary Gearhart Gallery in SoHo. Since its closing, I've been investigating other exhibition spaces.

No question about it. Habitat has a great team of colleagues whose daily accomplishments should not be overlooked: Tom Soter, Jeff Stein, Guytre Dasrath, Michael Sullivan, and Kelly Drinkwine. And there's Dartmouth Printing, whose services always exceed our expectations.

Philip Greenberg
Photographer
First Issue: No. 23, October 1985

I am a photojournalist, based in New York City. When I started working in New York about 15 years ago, I was on staff at the Chelsea Clinton News/Westsider and began to freelance for Habitat magazine. Which was run by a very funny, wild red-haired, publisher/editor, Carol Ott. She had the true spunk of a New Yorker with wit to match. I instantly adored her.

I had graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and tried really hard to combine journalism (my new avocation) and art (my studied craft ) into my work. My staff job paid $100 for a week's work. Habitat would pay $75 per assignment. Carol and Habitat helped keep me flush and able to go out on weekends enjoying the nightlife.

At the time, I lived in what was an old woodshop on a second floor loft on 23rd Street. After I got rid of the sawdust, I made it into my studio/darkroom/ home loft. It was right in between Carol's loft and Bernie Hoffman's home office (he was the art director). I remember meeting most deadlines at Bernie's apartment next door on 23rd Street. We would hang out and talk late into the night while he floated my images on the page.

These days, I produce most of my work, about 200 assignments a year, for The New York Times. My work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, New York Observer, Village Voice, Los Angeles Times, American Photo, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, People, GQ, Esquire, Business Week, and New York. I have recently lectured at Columbia University Journalism School, New York University, and the International Center of Photography.

David C. Hewitt
President
Dartmouth Printing Company
First Issue: No. 1, May 1982

A 1964 cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College and a 1967 graduate of Harvard Business School, Dave joined Dartmouth Printing in 1970. In 1978, he and Mike Smith purchased the company from its parent corporation, South Shore Publishing. In February 1998, they sold the company to The Sheridan Group. In addition to his responsibilities as president at Dartmouth Printing, Dave is actively involved in industry affairs. He recently completed two terms on the board of directors and the executive committee of the Printing Industries of America (PIA). He is also the immediate past chair of PIA's Association Relations Committee. Dave has also served on the board of directors for the Printing Industry of New England. He currently serves as a member of the campaign leadership organization for the United Way of the Upper Valley.

Dave Hewitt is married and has two daughters, both of whom now live in New York City. Over the past 30 years, he has spent considerable time renovating a circa 1803 farmhouse in Lyme, N.H. The most recent effort in this ongoing process involved excavating underneath one portion of the house to make room for a pool table. For exercise, Dave walks, runs, skis, bikes, and plays mediocre tennis. He also keeps bees and claims no one has ever tasted better honey.

"Dartmouth Printing has printed Habitat magazine for all 20 years of its existence," Dave says. "The fact that the relationship has lasted for two decades speaks volumes for Carol Ott's patience and loyalty to her suppliers, or at least to this one. However, no one should interpret that patience and loyalty to mean that Carol is a pushover.

"Many years ago, when we were both considerably younger, I took Carol to lunch when she was visiting our printing plant in Hanover, N.H. Perhaps naively, I anticipated a social occasion. That was not to be. Carol came prepared. She took the opportunity to make her expectations of this supplier crystal clear, including specifics on any areas in which we were lagging. As is usually the case with Carol, she had her facts right, and left precious little wiggle room for the respondent.

"That was quite early in the relationship. Even then, it was clear that Carol was on a mission. All of us at Dartmouth Printing are proud to have been invited to join in that effort over the last 20 years. We are undoubtedly a better printer and a better organization as a result."

Bernard Hoffman
Art Director
First Issue: No. 2, June 1982

I ran my own company, Benaul Associates Advertising, for 45 years. Hesitantly, I retired four years ago to become a "mountain man" in a lush, plush, gated community in the heart of the historic, honeymoon playland of the Pocono Mountains. Reluctantly, I've traded more than 16 wonderful years of late night deadlines as Habitat's art director for my new life where I wake up every sunny morning at around 11 A.M.

My association with the magazine began 20 years ago. A good client of mine, Arnold Abramson, founder and publisher of Ski Magazine, Family Handyman Magazine, and a dozen other magazines, appealed to me to temporily help this new, inexperienced wanna-be publisher and give her some advice and guidance. Her name was Carol Ott. Initially, it was very convenient, since both of us lived and worked only one city block apart. Since then we've had a long and fruitful relationship. I guess I did help some.

During these years, I've witnessed Habitat's growth; from the beginning, with a few part-time employees operating out of a corner of a loft with a meager following, to a full, capable staff working in wonderful, spacious offices. Within that time, I do remember enjoying a few good poker games, winning a few pennies from Carol, and also having some great office pizza lunches, thrown occasionally to celebrate happy events.

After leaving Habitat, I was looking forward to relaxing, painting portraits, and enjoying woodworking. However, the country folks here do not allow me to forget my skills. They constantly volunteer me to create various art projects, ads, flyers, and brochures for the local fire companies, rotary club, political aspirants, etc. Each spring, I'm also called upon (being an ancient riding instructor) to help calm spirited horses for the local kids Y camp. So much for me having free time.

I will always be grateful to have made so many friends at and through Habitat throughout these years, relationships that I still hold and value.

Brenda Rezak
Advertising Director
First Issue: No. 44, July/August 1988

Before I joined Habitat, I had been an advertising sales representative at Real Estate Weekly for a year and at Better Buildings for three years. I had heard that the sales representative at Habitat had left, so I called Carol Ott.

I joined the magazine in June of 1988 and left seven years later to start my own company. They were the fastest seven years of my life and some of the most enjoyable. I remember the old telephone system whereby everyone in the office had to answer the phone; no voicemail; we actually had to take written messages for each other. I remember the birthday parties that were supposed to be a surprise, but that we knew were going to be sometime that day and spent the whole day waiting for them to occur. I remember the taking of photos for the annual management issue. We'd go to Bernard Vidal's studio on West 31st Street and just joke around while each management executive was waiting his/her turn for the photo shoot. And I remember Carol being pregnant with her second daughter, Leslie.

One of the most amusing personal incidents I remember was how everyone in the office was dying to know my age but would never ask me. One day, at a weekly staff conference, Carol mentioned that she was considering instituting a pension plan for the employees. Everyone had to write down his/her date of birth. I could see the other, much younger employees, eyeball each other — this was going to be their opportunity to find out how old I was. They saw my birthday and were they ever shocked!

I left the magazine to found the special events consulting and management firm, Affairs to Remember, where I am the president and creative director. During those seven years, we have created custom events for organizations to magnify their image, enhance their visibility, and increase their funding support. Our clients are corporations large and small, non-profit organizations, and professional associations.

During this time, I have also served as the acting executive director of the New York Women's Agenda. In addition, I have been the president of Central Women's Focus, a board director of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, where I received the 1999 "Board of Director of the Year" Award and the Foundation for the Women Executives in Public Relations. I am also affiliated with Women in Development New York and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Right now, through my proposal and with the endorsement of the New York Women's Agenda, I have initiated a program called "New York Reads" whereby New York City schoolchildren and adults would be reading the same book at the same time. It is planned for October/November 2002.

What makes me the happiest at this juncture in my life is that I still consider the people at Habitat very good friends. When I was invited to celebrate Carol's "milestone" birthday, I was so happy to participate. We had so many laughs at that luncheon. I still stop by every once in a while to say, "hello," and to see the new faces there. It was such a wonderful time in my life that I can't believe almost seven years have passed since I left.

 

RICHARD SIEGLER
Author, "Case Notes"
First Issue: No. 18, February 1985

Richard Siegler graduated from Harvard Law School in 1965 and began work that year with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, a law firm which now employs in excess of 325 attorneys. He is a partner in one of the largest real estate departments in New York City. In addition, his firm is the largest in the city with a substantial practice representing cooperative housing corporations and condominiums.

Mr. Siegler has been the columnist for the New York Law Journal on cooperative housing and condominium law since 1985. He has also written articles about housing cooperatives and condominiums for Real Estate Review, The National Law Journal, and The New York Times and, since 1985, he has been a regular contributor to Habitat, with his "Case Notes" column.

New York Law School appointed Mr. Siegler adjunct professor of law in 1986 and he has taught taught a course on cooperative housing and condominium law. Mr. Siegler counsels many co-op and condominium boards in Manhattan. He has served as a co-op board president and is currently a member of a co-op board. He has owned both co-op and condominium apartments and has recently purchased a condominium in California to spend time with his three grandchildren.

Mr. Siegler recalls meeting Carol Ott in the spring of 1982 when, in preparation for the launch of Habitat, she was attending a program about co-op conversions at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan where Mr. Siegler was a speaker. As always, her presence was notable because of her flowing red hair. Soon thereafter, Mr. Siegler was asked to become a contributor to Habitat.

Mr. Siegler's automobile bears the license plate "COOP LAW."

Tom Soter
Editorial Director
First Issue: No. 2, June 1982

Choose one: Tom Soter (1) has been an editor and the chief writer at Habitat magazine almost since its first issue in 1982; (2) has been an improvisational comedy teacher since 1987; (3) is the author of two books, Bond and Beyond: 007 and Other Special Agents and Investigating Couples: A Critical Analysis of The Thin Man, The Avengers, and The X-Files; (4) is six-foot-seven and built like Hulk Hogan. If you chose No. 4, then you obviously have never met Soter. As for choices 1-3, they're all true.

Soter's first job out of college was as an editor at Firehouse, the monthly publication for firefighters founded by Dennis Smith. By 1982, he had grown tired of reporting on the destruction of buildings and instead started writing about the creation of co-ops as the managing editor and primary reporter/photographer for Habitat. At his job interview with Carol Ott, he admitted he didn't know much about lofts or co-ops; she didn't find that a drawback, however, and gave him a copy of her book, Paradise Loft, which was not about John Milton but loft living. He fondly remembers the early days of the magazine, when he, Eileen Shulock, and Ben the cat shared a cubicle in Carol Ott's loft. He also warmly recalls the idea sessions with art director Bernie Hoffman, usually held at a sushi bar at which Bernie would rough out ideas on napkins.

Over the years, Soter has also written for New York Newsday, Video, View, Shoot, The New York Observer, Diversion, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Health, Britain's Empire: The Movie Magazine, Movieline, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times Syndicate. In 1993, he saw the publication of his first book, Bond and Beyond; that was followed in 2001 by Investigating Couples.

In 1981, he began his long love affair with improvisation. In 1984, he started performing with his own successful improv group, the New York Improv Squad at night spots around New York. He also co-founded the improv troupe Improv DaDa, which won first place in Freestyle Repertory Theatre's 1991 city-wide improv competition. In 1987, he started teaching improvisation. His graduates include Beth Littleford of TV's The Daily Show, Denny Siegel of TV's Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Rob Festinger, co-writer of the Academy Award-nominated film, In the Bedroom. In 1992, he began hosting and performing in Sunday Night Improv, a comedy jam.

"I have fond memories of all my Habitat colleagues, past and present," Soter says, "and I especially thank Bernie Hoffman, for always working with whatever he was given, no matter how skimpy; Jeff Stein, who always takes the other road to town; Michael Gentile, whose enthusiasm for his work and his immense creativity is already legend; Mike Sullivan, who is as easy-going as he is sharp and always a great support; and, last but never least, Carol Ott, whose loyalty, support, and insistence on having the best has always brought out the best in me. Thanks all. And here's to another 20 years."

Jeff Stein
Associate Publisher
First Issue: No. 92, April 1994

ABrooklyn boy growing up in Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay, Jeff developed a fascination with the written word, magazines, and media early on. "For me, it all started in second grade with Our Weekly Reader." Later, Jeff was news editor at his high school newspaper and music, theater, and film reviewer for his college newspaper. An English literature major (with a political science minor), Jeff graduated law school and deciding to pursue his true passion — the world of publishing — moved to Manhattan's Gramercy Park.

After stints as director of client services at Atwood Richards, a major New York media buying agency, and associate publisher of Opportunity magazine, Jeff moved on to Habitat in 1994, first as advertising director and later as associate publisher. "More than 100,000 phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and people later, I'm still here," he notes. He lists his proudest accomplishments as growing the customer base, increasing Habitat's frequency from eight to eleven robust annual issues, launching and developing the magazine's web site, www.habitatmag.com and its interactive vendor search guide ConnectLink, working with Carol, Tom et al, and making so many friends in the industry.

Jeff is a voracious reader and a music and crossword puzzle fan. Everyone who works with him knows of his engaging sense of humor and penchant for quoting films, TV shows, and song lyrics that he occasionally sings in the office. "There's a line for any occasion" he says. His favorites? Star Trek, Superman ("with George Reeves, of course"), Goldfinger, The Honeymooners, the Marx Brothers, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, the Beatles, the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, the Doors, and the Moody Blues. He notes: "Now my wife and I enjoy laughing and listening together with my children, getting into the new crop of clever cartoons: SpongeBob, Powerpuff Girls, and Fairly OddParents, and watching them respond to the music of my generation and (gasp!) the music of this generation.

"I have a great many people to thank," says Jeff. "Thank you to all my business associates and customers. I can only name a few, and I'll begin with the one and only Carol Ott. Thanks for the opportunity to join you and your team of hard-working, intelligent, talented, funny, and dedicated people who strove and strive mightily every day to turn out the best magazine they can…and do some good in this world. To Bernie Hoffman, our art director emeritus for your consummate professionalism, sharing your wealth of marketing experience, and your personal warmth, support, sage wisdom — like a father to us all. To Tom Soter, for your wit, depth of knowledge from the erudite to the pop, and for being here to laugh it up with me. To Michael Gentile, our one-year veteran art director who's made all the difference, for his enthusiasm and brilliant creativity. To Guytre Dasrath, for your diligence and for backing me up. To Mike Sullivan, Kerrigan Webb, and Kelly Drinkwine for all you do. A special thank you to A.S., who, on my very first day, a Sunday spent at the Board Leadership Conference, kept 'the new guy' company, and introduced me and pointed out many of the people in the industry that I would come to know.

"And, thanks especially to my beautiful wife, Deborah, and my awesome children, Daniel and Rebecca, for your spirit, your support. You give me the sun, the stars, and the universe every day, so I can boldly go…."

Kerrigan (Webb) Sullivan
Publisher's Assistant
First Issue: No. 85, August 1993

Michael Sullivan
Associate Editor
First Issue: No. 152, November 1999

Coincidence or destiny, you decide. Kerrigan Webb (like publisher Carol Ott, another redhead from Oak Ridge, Tennessee) starts working at Habitat during her final years of school at New York University where she is studying acting. During her summers, she poses in Renaissance costume at the New York Renaissance Faire, maintaining a long list of foreign accents.

Michael Sullivan, who is dressing similarly in 1996, falls for the young actress, initially thinking she really is Russian. (He doesn't tell her he is making his living as a camp counselor and has no job after August.) It takes him a year to ask her out. In the meantime, Michael manages to find a job writing obituaries for The Stamford Advocate, which he leaves after six months to become a full-time reporter for another newspaper. He then gets his fiancé, Kerrigan, a job as a typesetter.

In turn, the actress and former multi-tasker at Habitat, convinces Michael to contact editorial director Tom Soter about freelancing. In 1999, Habitat publishes his first two stories in the magazine, one about water meters and the other about a board member. Shortly after this, he leaves his job for another newspaper job. Following their tradition, Kerrigan begins part-time work as a graphic designer for the new job. At the same time, she continues her love of organizing things, staying involved with Habitat planning company dinners and conferences. Six months later, she convinces Michael that he should look into working fulltime for Habitat — a good way to pay for their upcoming wedding. Michael joins Habitat fulltime in August 2000, only to leave for two weeks on a honeymoon in Greece. (Tom provides many good suggestions on things to do in his homeland.)

Since then, Kerrigan has moved onto pursuing a Masters in Directing at Brooklyn College. Michael continues to write for the magazine on a monthly basis, but has pursued other interests, as well, becoming a music teacher two days a week for babies and their caregivers. It is good preparation for the couple's next project together: their first child, due in July. Coincidence or destiny? What should they call it?

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