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Building a sense of community is not limited to efforts just within your building
Many residents in New York don't expect to get to know their super and the management of their building -- few even know their neighbors very well. One co-op president is doing everything she can to change that for her building, starting with a newsletter and website for her residents. Beyond that, the building has gotten involved in the community by participating in a food drive and organizing a system for recycling that benefits building residents and the community at large.
Board President, The Sutton East, Manhattan
The day after 9/11, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and run for the board.
It came about because I managed to coordinate our residents getting free air filters and HEPA vacuums.
That was eight years ago, and at the time, the managing agent suggested that I submit my resume for the board. Within a year, I was not only on the board, but I was president as well. I hadn’t thought about it before then, since my job as the CEO of a bi-coastal entertainment company and mother of three left me little time to spend on board matters.
I had moved into the building in 1997 attracted by its spacious rooms, dedicated staff, and quiet neighborhood. The building itself is a 173-unit co-op in the Sutton Place area with a real mixture of residents, from older people on fixed incomes to young families and professionals just getting started.
Our current board feels strongly about creating a community where we live. It is very easy to live in a New York City building and not know your neighbors or even the names of the staff – never mind the people in the surrounding buildings or community at large. As a parent and local business owner, I wanted to foster the community mindset in our co-op. Therefore, we instituted holiday parties, newsletters, a website for shareholders, and other similar initiatives.
In the same spirit, in the past year I created an organization called CO-OP CARES NY (www.coopcaresny.com). I spoke to Peter Britz and Paul Gottsegen at Halstead Properties, our managing agent, and they agreed to come on board as a sponsor. The mission of CO-OP CARES is to make it easy for New Yorkers to make a difference. We started off with a food drive where we set up boxes in the lobby and basement and people could bring canned goods to contribute.
What was great about this was that it was so easy. Someone could bring one can or a case of cans but they only had to go as far as the lobby. We collected over 500 pounds of food and have done subsequent clothing and food drives that were equally as successful. We are committed to creating a coalition of buildings that participate in CO-OP CARES NY and cause a ripple that will affect New York significantly.
A fellow board member has been working with me to create alliances with local organizations and elected officials, as well as research such creative options as green rooftops, local green markets, and recycling options that minimize neighborhood trash, and also create a volunteer database that will enable local residents to contribute their time as well as their money and materials.
Ever since we initiated the CO-OP CARES NY program, we have received amazing feedback from our residents, who are delighted at the opportunity to participate and now ask when the next drive will be.
The sense of community has increased exponentially in our building, and we have begun to include the neighborhood beyond our walls. We are starting a recycling initiative where we separate the bottles and cans and agree with the local “collectors” not to rummage through our bags on the street but rather to schedule a time to pick up those separate bags and return them for the deposit. This is a win/win scenario as it helps them, keeps our street clean, and fosters a type of partnership we never imagined in the past.
Coming up with creative solutions to issues we are all dealing with as New York residents is what we are interested in. CO-OP CARES NY is a great environment to create partnership across the city for building to share resources, ideas, and solutions that will create situations where everyone wins.