New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Neither Angry Nor Dysfunctional

This will not be a tale of a dysfunctional board or of angry owners. I live in a very cordial environment in a beautiful neighborhood of New York City among many families and interesting people.

I spent most of my adult life practicing radiology in a Massachusetts hospital. Many years ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to buy a small apartment in New York City, and when I retired, we sold our house and small apartment to move into our present home on West End Avenue. We were overwhelmed by the beauty and elegance of this building that is almost 100 years old. We had no idea, however, of the maintenance issues that we would eventually face.

We minded our own business, and for about four years enjoyed all the fun of living in New York without any real responsibilities. When I was asked to serve on the board of our building, my wife thought I would do a good job because I had so many years of experience in management. I had served as the chairman of a fairly large radiology department where I had been responsible for multi-million dollar budgets and over 100 employees. Little did she or I realize, there is no adequate training ground for becoming a board member. It’s like raising children. No matter how much you think you know, there are always issues that surprise and confound you. This is especially true when the board has to deal with an aging building and its old systems. Not knowing this, I accepted a board position and quickly became involved in our Local Law 11 inspection and repairs.

This project was completed under budget and ahead of schedule. Many items that had not been addressed over the years were repaired and when all the work was completed, our building looked younger and more attractive. Even though I really did not do much, the board and the owners gave me credit for a job well done. I guess it’s better to be lucky than smart. Because of this “success,” I was asked to oversee our next major upgrade.

Our century-old building has two elevators that functioned like an aging, arthritic person. There were frequent breakdowns requiring owners to use the stairways to get to their apartments. This should not have been surprising with an elevator system still running on rebuilt DC motors and a control system that looked as if it been acquired from the Frankenstein laboratory. Luck was on my side for a second time. Our consultant, elevator engineers, plus the managing agent helped make this six-month project successful and within budget. We now even have call buttons with digital indicators to show the location of the elevator.

My “reward” for a job well done was to oversee our next large project: window replacement. At about the same time, I was also asked to serve as the president of the board. I should have known better, but I accepted.

Of course, once I became president, progress and success in replacing more than 300 windows on the street façades of the building did not go smoothly. We have not even been able to find the ideal windows appropriate for our building.

Replacing wooden French windows with new structures that should look and function similar to the units that have been in place for almost 100 years is not easy. Especially when you also have to provide improved insulation. Maybe, when the new windows are completely installed, I can write a story that will have many detours and hopefully a happy ending.

The job of board president is not as bad as advertised and, in fact, can be quite rewarding, especially in a building with a cordial environment. It is very encouraging to have owners express their thanks when they see the positive results of the board’s efforts. However, if I can give any advice to apartment owners, when asked to get involved in a window replacement program, simply say, “I don’t do windows.” Your life will be a lot easier.

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