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A Conversation About What’s Really Important

Flummoxed: Our superintendent recently pulled up and chopped down our entire ground-cover garden when directed to remove weeds from a specific area. Later, he said he didn’t know a weed from a plant. Value, approx. $600. Shareholders are shocked. Also, “cleaned up” another area on his own initiative, removing bushes. What should be done?

 

AdC: Don’t expect a porter or superintendent can do landscaping. Ask the person first about his competence, then train the person to do the work.

 

Flummoxed: You’re right about asking the person if he knows a weed from a flower before asking him to pull up a row of weeds in front of a window. The dollar cost is only the price of materials replacement; the cost to the appearance of the building is inestimable, as is the cost to the shareholders’ confidence in the person.

 

Ex Res Manager: Whenever I start feeling a little blue now that I am on the commercial side of the business I make it a point to visit “Board Talk.” Looking at the number of replies and general interest in regard to this subject I have to ask, “What on God’s green earth is all the fuss about?” So, the super made a mistake and took out some ground cover. Oh, my God, $600 worth of plants. “Let’ s demand a grievance with 32BJ.”

Are you out of your minds? Is this all you have to dwell on? At worst, the super made a simple mistake. Oops, I forgot, we are dealing with co-ops and boards. I now believe the super should be shot at sunrise and buried in his mistake.

Best of luck to you all.

 

Flummoxed: We didn’t mention a grievance with the union. The problem is more than the cost of the plants. Yes, the super made a mistake. The mistake cost the appearance of the building, the bank account of the shareholders, and more. The ramifications of his mistake don’t get thrown in the trash.

BP Ex Res Manager, we come to “Board Talk” for information to help solve problems and better run our buildings. To ask if we are out of our minds and what all the fuss is over the super who pulled out plants instead of weeds insults everyone who replies to it. Whatever the issue at hand is, that’s no reason for ridicule. You make fun of the point that what the super did cost $600 to correct. Maybe $600 is money this co-op can ill afford to spend. Maybe the super didn’t make “a simple mistake” as you stated. Maybe he makes many mistakes and should be better instructed, or terminated. The original poster was asking for advice or suggestions, and other posters were trying to offer that.

I’ve been on “Board Talk” for a long time, and I think it’s admirable that people here not only look for help but also want to help others. If you were a building manager and are now on the commercial side of the business, we may benefit from some of your knowledge and experience. If all you can offer is criticism, you’re in the wrong place.

 

Ex Res Manager: In all honesty, my original response was a bit of a poke at what looked on the outside as a somewhat harmless mistake in the grand scheme of what it takes to manage a building the greater New York City area. Having said that, let me say the following…

One of the largest issues faced by management companies, managers and other professional staff serving the co-op and condo side of this business is the well-intentioned and often misguided shareholder. Let me also respectfully request for you to review this forum noting that the thread on this issue is expansive while others dealing with true fiduciary issues remain for the most part muted. Let me again state in that context, “Looking at the number of replies in regard to this subject I have to ask: what is all the fuss about?”

 

CDT: To play devil’s advocate for a minute, I think Ex Res Manager sees this as an example of those tedious battles that plague all boards from time to time. Think of those protracted disputes over the precise shade of light green that should be used for some bit of trim in the lobby. That said, I don’t think this particular dispute falls into that category. It’s understandably disturbing that the super took the instruction, “Remove the weeds,” and turned it into, “Remove every scrap of vegetation you can find.” That’s either incredibly stupid or actively hostile. I would have a polite but candid talk with the super to figure out what went wrong. Let him know you’re not happy with the results, and tell him to please ask for clarification if the details of a job are unclear to him. Maybe his next job should be discreetly monitored.

BP: Thank you, CDT. I know what you mean about tedious discussions that all boards have at times. I have one every December with mine!

“Why not a Christmas tree in the lobby?”

“No, it will offend non-Christians.”

“But the fact is – it is Christmas.”

“But it’s also Hanukkah and Kwanza.”

“Let’s have decorations for all of them.”

“No, the lobby will look like Disneyland.”

I think we solved it last year. We had solar mini-lights on our front bushes and large white poinsettia plants (a seasonal flower) in the lobby. That appeased everyone but I could’ve written a book in the time spent on this. As Mason said to Dixon, “You’ve gotta draw the line somewhere.”

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