As anyone who has ever engaged in a long apartment search will understand, when I first laid eyes on The Grand Chelsea nearly 20 years ago, my heart raced. It seemed to possess everything I was looking for in a condominium.
The Grand Chelsea is a luxury, 24-hour doorman building featuring 20 stories of beautiful studio, multi-bedroom, and penthouse apartments with full amenities. Nearly all the units have balconies and panoramic views, from the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan in the south to the Hudson River and cinematic New York City skyline in the north. There is a landscaped 7,000+ square-foot sun deck area, in-house laundry facilities, and bike rooms.
I was happy to know that the building is situated on major transit lines and is pet-friendly with a sports club located within its premises. On top of all that, The Grand Chelsea was designed by James Polshek, famous for his post-modern style and sleek elegance, and architect of such renowned buildings as Scandinavian House, The Rose Center at the Museum of Natural History, and the Standard Hotel.
There was one hitch, though. The neighborhood was less than desirable. Two decades ago, Chelsea was not yet the hot, hip neighborhood it would later become. In fact, the surroundings were so off-putting that I wouldn’t get out of the car when my brother drove me over to see the recently constructed building. He insisted on seeing an apartment, however, so he went inside without me and took a tour of the building, including one of its high-floor units. When he returned, my brother informed me that I was missing an amazing opportunity and we drove away, not to speak of The Grand Chelsea for another few years.
By 1994, Chelsea had undergone a radical gentrification into one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in town, and so, at my brother’s urging, I went back to see The Grand Chelsea. This time, I got out of the car and, after looking at an apartment with breathtaking views of the Empire State, Chrysler, and MetLife buildings, I placed a deposit on it right away. Seventeen years later, I am still enjoying that view.
About 18 months ago, I decided to give back to the building that has given so much to me. Believing it was time for a change in governance, I ran for a seat on the board of managers and was elected president. I felt confident that my years serving on nonprofit boards, my experience in institutional administration, and my successful career as a fundraiser and writer would be beneficial in my new role. This more than proved to be the case.
Immediately following the election, my fellow board members and I instituted a host of enhancements – internally, externally, and, sometimes, invisibly. Among other things, we began drafting a long-term financial plan that would anticipate expenditures as our building ages, drafted the first-ever job descriptions for all staff, initiated a full renovation of the laundry facilities, and implemented a floor-to-ceiling rehabilitation of the building’s interior. Already, The Grand Chelsea looks years younger, with a sophisticated, contemporary design that is competitive with newer, more expensive condos in the neighborhood.
Just as important, we created mechanisms for comprehensive and frequent resident communication, including e-blast updates, newsletters, and an improved website featuring a discussion forum for owners to chat directly with one another. True, all this has opened the door to complaints from a few disgruntled residents, but I feel it is important that people know our board is willing to listen and address their concerns.
Without question, we have taken on a great deal in the last 18 months. Yet, while I learned that managing the expectations of owners and residents in a 156-unit condominium can at times be daunting and frustrating, I also discovered that it can be quite rewarding. I take great pride in being able to tell residents that the board is doing its job with integrity, administrative transparency, fiscal responsibility, and open communication. We take seriously our commitment to maintaining the standard of quality and service for which The Grand Chelsea is known.
One more thing I’ve learned after all these years: you can’t fight fate. Recently, my brother came across papers for the apartment he viewed when I wouldn’t get out of the car on our first trip to The Grand Chelsea. In a strange twist, it turned out to be the very same apartment that I eventually bought and continue to live in today. I guess The Grand Chelsea and I were just destined for each other.