New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Economic Engines

THE CITY OWES US ONE. That “us” is the group of co-op and condo associations that have saved the Big Apple from the kind of property default meltdown that has occurred regularly in other cites. That’s because, long ago (shall we say 30 years?), co-op and condo owners took a chance and invested in a collection of aging buildings that rent control laws had made unprofitable. Unlike rental tenants, these people had an ownership stake in the properties and consequently enacted tougher financial controls than the banks. Each property soon became a valuable commodity – a separate little city within the city, run by people with a personal stake in the building’s (and the city’s) success. What kind of community drives these economic engines, and how do they keep them tuned? To find out, we talked with 21 boards from around the metro region.

 

 

Pamela Wolff

Work: Managing agent

Board: Resident manager/assistant secretary

(Appointed by the board, not elected)

223 W. 21st St.

Manhattan

Board term 30 years

My Community

Over the last 30 years, there has been a real change in who lives here. It used to be entirely blue collar: bus drivers, hot dog salesmen, longshoremen, house painters. When we converted in 1982, there were still 26 rent-controlled tenants. We now have artists, bankers, people who work on the internet, doctors, writers, architects, college professors, professionals. These are considered good starter apartments. We’ve had students whose parents bought the apartments for them. It’s pretty stable. We don’t have more than two or three turn over a year.

Our Economic Engine

The board has always struggled and been very, very conservative on maintenance. In 30 years, this co-op has never had an assessment or changed the maintenance in the middle of the year. We only do our project work out of our income other than income for operating. We keep them in separate bank accounts. We raise the maintenance almost every year. Our insurance rates, fuel costs, and taxes go up – stuff that you really can’t control. Everyone’s maintenance is below $1,000. We have in our operating budget a built-in contribution to the reserves. It accumulates from our commercial space that provides money, storage rooms, and a one percent transfer fee that brings in irregular income.

I wish I had known

If you’re looking for rewards, you won’t find them. You should take as much satisfaction as you can from board service, because it’s the only reward you’re going to get.

You should expect to work. If you have theater tickets for the night of the meeting, too bad. We only have four meetings a year, so you should be able to attend.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 58
Buildings: 2
Year Built: 1889
Annual Operating Income: $581,630
Property Taxes: $298,471
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $125,000
Underlying Financing: None, paid off in 2007
Recent Refinancing: Dec. 2007 LOC $400,000
Dec. 1992 $300,000
Nov. 1982 $419,000
Recent Sales:
$545,000 1BR/1B 8/24/2011
$538,000 2BR/1B 6/1/2011
$685,000 2BR/1B 4/12/2011

Management Pamela Wolff, Wolff Management Attorney Jeffrey Schwartz, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz Accountant Susan Tavella, Lutz & Carr

 

 

 

Walter Mankoff

Work: Retired economist

Board: Treasurer

321 Eighth Ave.

Mutual Redevelopment Houses (Penn South)

Manhattan

 

Board term 30 years, 20 as treasurer

My Community

We’re a limited equity co-op, so we’re subsidized to provide housing for low- and middle-income families. We have all ethnicities, with a large number of senior citizens.

Our Economic Engine

Our general manager, our financial manager, and I work out a plan and present it to the board. We raise maintenance as needed. In a low inflation period, we may not raise it for a couple of years; in a high-inflation period you raise it every year. We had a drop in fuel prices three years ago, and that has kept costs down. We do fairly long-range planning.

I wish I had known

I wish we had our current management team 30 years ago. They are superlative.

 

* Penn South is a limited equity co-op organized under the State Redevelopment Housing Law. Sale price is set by law at price paid for the stock plus assessments and share of amortization after purchase. After 50 years of operation, apartments now sell for approximately $20,000 a room. Income limits and other restrictions apply. Sales are to next family on waiting list.

 

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 2,820
Buildings: 15
Year Built: 1963
Annual Operating Income: $41 million
Property Taxes: $48,758
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $6 million
Underlying Financing:
$134 million, second mortgage $17 million
Recent Refinancing: 2003 $63 million
1997 $45 million
1987 $33.5 million
* Recent Sales:
$120,000 6 rooms, 3 BR 2/2012
$50,000 2.5 rooms, studio 2/2012
$80,000 4 rooms, 1BR w/balcony 2/2012

 

Management In-house Attorney Ezra Goodman, Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus Accountant Stephen Beer, Czarnowski & Beer

 

 

Edward S. Lewis

Work: Owner of commercial construction company

Board: Vice president/co-treasurer

201 W. 16th St.

Manhattan

Board term 20 years, various offices

My Community

Typically, we mostly have young professionals, and unfortunately, I can’t put myself in the young category anymore.

Our Economic Engine

The revenue and expenses have to be equal, and whatever that adds up to be determines the maintenance. We believe that all shareholders should share a piece of capital expenses; we assess them for 25 percent of the capital fund. We don’t raise maintenance every year; we only do it as needed. With rising costs we grow the auxiliary revenue line.

 

I wish I had known

It’s a lot harder work than I imagined, and people are crankier than I imagined.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 105
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1930
Annual Operating Income:
$2.1-$2.2 million
Property Taxes: $775,000
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $600,000
Underlying Financing:
$7 million
Recent Refinancing:
2005 $7 million
1995 $4.7 million
Recent Sales:
$430,000 0BR/1B 12/8/2011
$370,000 0BR/1B 10/27/2011
$375,000 0BR/1B 9/26/2011

Management Janice Keller-McDowall, Tudor Realty Attorney Jeffrey Reich, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz Accountant Marvin Schwartz, Jacobs & Schwartz

 

 

 

 

Georganne Lund

Work: Retired social worker

Board: President

69 W. 9th St.

Manhattan

Board term 8 years, 5 as president

My Community

We have young couples, New York University students, an elderly population. We range from newborns to someone who’s 92. The income runs low to high: fixed-incomes, business people, a nice mix.

Our Economic Engine

Until 10 years ago, the building had done no capital improvement, so we used $1.5 million from our refinancing to work on the lobby, stairs, hallways, driveway, the elevator, and the roof, and we didn’t have to assess for it. To do that, we made a long-term plan; we had an examination by an engineer, who made up a plan and a priority list.

We raise maintenance every year by at least three percent. We don’t want to price it too high. Right now our capital fund is depleted, and three or four years ago, we had a $500,000 assessment to replace our 55-year-old boiler. We have to keep $200,000 in our reserve fund as part of our mortgage requirements.

I wish I had known

I didn’t know how complicated it would be. It took me six months to get a handle on things so that I could contribute meaningfully.

When I was first on the board, I found the atmosphere toxic. I wouldn’t have gotten on the board if I had known how much emotional pollution there was. That cleared up and now we have a wonderful board.

The former president did a lot, but she didn’t share what she was doing. When I became president, I had to learn a lot.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 108
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1959
Annual Operating Income: $1,998,784
Property Taxes: $527,699
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $500,000
Underlying Financing: $4 million, interest only
Recent Refinancing: Oct. 2002
$4 million
Recent Sales:
$824,500 2BR/1B 11/2/2011
$355,000 0BR/1B 10/26/2011
$335,000 0BR/1B 6/8/2011

 

Management Edith Schickedanz, Gumley-Haft Attorney Jon Kolbrener, Braverman & Associates Accountant Newman, Newman & Kaufman

 

 

 

 

Carl Tait

Work: Computer programmer in financial industry

Board: President

152 W. 58th St.

Manhattan

Board term 10 years, 7 as president

My Community

Before apartments got so expensive, we were actually full of theater people and other performers and artists (we’re just a block from Carnegie Hall). There are still a fair amount of that type, but most of the newer people are lawyers and business people. That being said, we’re not stuffy. Our board remains quite diverse. People actually care about the building and want it to work well.

Our Economic Engine

We don’t want to conceal any costs from our shareholders, and we want to be flexible. For example, we borrowed from our reserve fund to overhaul the elevators but we’re paying it back with an assessment. We paid off our $1.9 million mortgage with the sale of our air rights to Extell, and even after all the associated taxes, we still had $157,000 left over.

We want to be straight with people about our costs, even if it’s painful. We never put flip taxes or late fees in our budget. We spend money carefully, but we don’t scrimp on the important things. If an expensive, critical project arises (such as the boiler), we’ll be calling the bank immediately and taking out a new loan if need be. It’s hard-core practicality. Our general approach is bill the right amount for operating expenses, and assess as needed for extraordinary expenses.

I wish I had known

Number one, no doubt: how much work it was going to be. It is a ton of work.

How to delegate better. It’s tacitly expected that the president will do the lion’s share of the work. Delegating is profoundly important.

There are some things that are extremely hard to fight – like the Department of Buildings when it is granting variances to major developers at all hours, day or night.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 33
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1915-16
Annual Operating Income: $606,525
Property Taxes: $287,134
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $325,000
Underlying Financing: None, paid off in 2006
Recent Refinancing:
1997 $1.9 million
1990 $1.5 million
Recent Sales:
$840,000 2BR/2B 9/8/2010
$733,000 2BR/1B 10/8/2009
$875,000 2BR/1B 10/25/2005

 

 

Management Jan Sikora, Matthew Adam Properties Attorney Stuart Saft, Dewey & LeBoeuf Accountant Andrea Braudy, Shavelson Neuman & Co.

 

 

 

Lisa Denby

Work: Partner at creative services and marketing company

Board: President

305 E. 24 St.

New York Towers

Manhattan

Board term 18 years, 16 as president

My Community

When the building converted in 1986, there were a significant number of insiders. Over the last 15 years there has been a significant turnover. Ours runs the gamut, from people who are in their 20s to people who are 90-plus.

Our Economic Engine

We are working on a five-year plan. We are very vigilant about making sure that we are budgeting enough to stay pace with expenses. We have tried to be mindful of what happens with an aging infrastructure. We are constantly working to stay ahead. We went through an energy audit and now have dual fuel. We work on the budget in October; we generally raise the maintenance every year; one year we didn’t and we had to play catch-up with the costs. People say maintenance has gone up over the years, but so have taxes.

I wish I had known

What an enormous responsibility it is to have the well-being of a corporation in our hands.

How much time is spent on non-corporate items – inter-neighbor relations, for example – but they are equally important because they impact the lives of our residents.

How many great people there are in this building who can be counted on anytime.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 388
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1964
Annual Operating Income: $7 million
Property Taxes: $2,521,929
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $2,300,000
Underlying Financing: $10,760,000
Recent Refinancing: March 2010 $10,760,000
Jan. 2003 $9,500,000
Nov. 1993 $7,680,000
Recent Sales:
$440,000 0BR/1B 12/22/2011
$350,000 0BR/1B 12/14/2011
$440,000 0BR/1B 11/29/2011

 

Management Steve Nardoni, Nardoni Realty Company Attorney Sara R. Throne, Sonnenschein, Sherman & Deutsch Accountant Richard Sauerwald, Greenberg & Brennan

 

 

 

David Goldstick

Work: Retired co-op conversion attorney

Board: Treasurer (non-board member)

450 West End Ave.

Manhattan

Board term 10 years, on and off since 1970

My Community

There is not a difference in the makeup of the building between 40 years ago and today. In 1968, when the building went co-op, it was made up of Wall Street brokers, lawyers, accountants, and others, like people in the diamond and garment industries, which were huge back then. They’re the “one percent” Obama is talking about.

Our Economic Engine

We do a budget line for capital expenditures. We budget between $50,000 to $100,000 a year for capital items even if they’re not in our budget, just so we’ll be putting aside the money. We know we’ll spend about $1 million every 10 years. When we have a huge capital line item, we either have the money or we raise it by special assessment. Our attitude is you don’t borrow unless you don’t have to pay for it (as in a refinancing, when you can get extra money). When we have a surplus, we don’t reduce maintenance. Every year, we raise it by at least three percent. That avoids a yo-yo effect, one year no increase and the next year, seven percent. The year I came in as treasurer, they had a 14 percent increase. They had no increase for two years and that ate into the capital budget. They just looked at the bottom line of the expense budget, which is no way to run a co-op.

I wish I had known

I didn’t really know how to review the books. Even though I had great experience as a converter, I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. You have to gain that by experience.

If you have a treasurer who has good on-the-job experience, do whatever you have to do to keep him.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 57
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1931
Annual Operating Income: $2 million
Property Taxes: $643,788
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $95,000
Underlying Financing: $3,950,000 4.73% due 10/1/2015
Recent Refinancing:
Sept. 2005 $3,950,000
2000 $3,200,000
Aug. 1990 $2,300,000
Recent Sales:
$3,850,000 3BR/2B 10/12/2011
$999,000 2BR/2B 1/3/2011
$2,400,000 2BR/2B 3/17/2009

Management Earl Kirn, Midboro Management Attorney Linda Plotnicki, Kaufman, Friedman, Plotnicki, & Grun Accountant Eric Slavsky, Slavsky & Co.

 

 

 

Don Asch

Work: Retired

Board: President

165 West End Ave.

Part of Lincoln Towers

Manhattan

Board term 4 years, 1 as president

My Community

There are a range of people, from (a declining population of) seniors on a fixed income to young, single (and married, with small children) professionals, and a number of pieds-à-terre from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Texas.

Our Economic Engine

We want to cover operating costs each year with the maintenance, which is the bulk of our budget. We capture the real estate rebate in April, we have laundry income, and we have some fees, relatively minor, for the bike room, storage room, and a gym. We have some rental income from an office. Most of it comes from maintenance. We believe operating costs have to be covered 100 percent. We increase maintenance as necessary. This year, it will probably be flat because we are anticipating a big reduction in our mortgage payments with the refinancing.

I wish I had known

You can’t just come in and sit down at a board meeting and be productive unless you understand the economics of your building. Ours is especially complicated because we have condo units as well as co-op units.

The personal dynamics on a co-op board are really different from those on other kinds of boards, and the decisions really impact the homes and the lives of everybody who lives here. You’re dealing with five or six people on the board with different business backgrounds, different interests, and different personalities. You’re going to have to figure out how to get everyone on the same page and get done what needs to be done.

To do the job right, it takes time and involvement from the board. You can’t count on the management company to get it all done.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Cond-op
Units: 375
Buildings: 1
(8 total in Lincoln Towers)
Year Built: 1962
Annual Operating Income:
$7.8 million
Property Taxes: $2,596,320
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: less than $100,000
Underlying Financing:
$17 million
Recent Refinancing:
c. 2005 $3.6 millon
Aug. 2002 $13.4 million
Recent Sales:
$325,000 12/28/2011
$350,000 12/27/2011
$355,000 12/20/2011

 

Management Alan Pearlstein, Cooper Square Realty Attorney Arthur I. Weinstein Accountant Carole Newman and Keith Bleiweiss, Newman, Newman & Kaufman

 

 

Caroline Favre-Gilly Law

Work: Design/build firm principal and property management consultant

Board: Vice president

202 W. 78th St.

Manhattan

Board term 28 years

My Community

We have a very warm and harmonious group. We’re mature – a few families with children but no really young owners. The ages go from age six months to 93. We have an attorney, an engineer, construction people, a journalist, a banker, a Metropolitan Opera singer.

Our Economic Engine

We do a budget-to-budget comparison every year. It went from $22,000 one year to $37,000, which is a huge hit. We’re very prudent. We have six of the ten residential units on the board. We practically do self-manage. We try to keep the maintenance low. When we refinance, we build project costs into the refinancing; we hold the projects off until we refinance. In the 1990s, we had an architecture firm look at our building, and they prepared a prioritized list. We try to have a $30,000 reserve.

I wish I had known

I wish I had known that it wasn’t going to be forever – but I’m very invested in preserving this building.

I wish I knew how to resolve issues in a very small community. There were times, though not recently, when I wished I was in a more stand-alone environment.

I didn’t know it was going to be this much time, that it would be so hands-on. We all end up being supers and handymen and handywomen and secretaries. I’m involved in everything.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 11
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1890s
Annual Operating Income: $159,000
Property Taxes: $37,240
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $0
Underlying Financing: $300,000
Recent Refinancing:
Dec. 2003 $300,000
Sept. 1996 $185,000
Oct. 1998 $110,000
Recent Sales:
$957,000 2BR/1B 11/19/2008
$950,000 3BR/2B 4/20/2007
$629,000 2BR/1B 1/12/2007

 

 

Management Beth Markowitz, Merlot Management Attorney Howard Wasserman Accountant Matthew DiPasquale

 

 

 

Reynold Weidenaar

Work: Retired university professor

Board: Vice president/treasurer

20 Jane St.

Manhattan

Board term 8 years

My Community

We have several published authors, artists, a union official, and bankers, the full range you’d expect in the West Village. There are some people who own multiple properties. A number of people have it as a pied-à-terre. We have about eight investors, owners who have moved to places like Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. These are basically studio apartments, so you have to be tolerant of sublets. This is not where you end up. But we’re looking closely at investors who have held on for 20 years. By Fannie Mae rules, we can’t let it go below 51 percent owner-occupied.

Our Economic Engine

We want to cover operating expenses by the maintenance; this was not done in the past. They ran the reserve fund down. There was a lot of resistance to raising the maintenance. From 1991-2008, maintenance went up only 16 percent, while the CPI went up 58 percent. Finally, we got a new board that passed assessments for work we needed to do, and took sublet income and put it in the reserve fund. We just put in a four-year-long assessment. It was accepted that we had to pay for the work we had to do. And we had to have a good reserve fund so banks and buyers would say this is a very healthy building.

I wish I had known

The biggest surprise to me was how weak the co-op system is. It’s not far from being immoral. If you get a larger building, you get more professionals to choose from for your board. In a smaller building, you can’t get enough people on the board. There are no incentives.

We’ve had four managers in recent years who didn’t do their jobs. The companies would give their okay without knowing what they were talking about.

Unless board members are willing to put in the time and acquire the skills, then you are going to be spending more money than you ought to.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 20
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1946
Annual Operating Income: $164,316
Property Taxes: $59,072
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $30,973
Underlying Financing: $471,782
Recent Refinancing: April 25, 2007 $500,000
Sept. 8, 1998 $450,000
July 18, 1988 $350,000
Recent Sales:
$275,000 0BR/1B 3/15/2011
$273,000 11/20/2006
$300,000 0BR/1B 4/28/2006

 

Management Noel Dent, Veritas Management Attorney Maryellen Goble, Hanley & Goble Accountant Alan Zuckerman, Accountants Around the Clock

 

 

 

Marleen Levi

Work: Freelance writer/consultant

Board: President

2260 Benson Ave.

Brooklyn

Board term 24 years, 21 as president

My Community

Mix of young families, retired people, single people – it’s really eclectic. It’s culturally diverse. A lot of them are working class: white collar mostly, blue collar some. There’s limited turnover. Most people live here for an average of 20 years.

Our Economic Engine

We have not raised maintenance in several years; we make every effort not to. We still own 13 former sponsor units. When those become vacant we sell them, and use the income for reserves and long-term capital planning. We had to raise maintenance when we didn’t have sales. In 2010, we did a 10-month assessment that helped us stem shortfall. We do long-term planning, looking at potential sales. We are not doing a maintenance increase or assessment this year because we have a unit to sell.

I wish I had known

The incredible amount of time you need to devote to it; someone once said to me, it becomes your other full-time, nonpaying job.

The unfortunate apathy from people: if things are running, they don’t get involved. But many do appreciate the work effort.

More about the infrastructure of a co-op. It has been an incredible learning experience. A lot of it was baptism by fire.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 75
Buildings: 1
Year Built:
1956
Annual Operating Income: $638,000
Property Taxes: $192,402
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $150,000
Underlying Financing: $1.4 million
Recent Refinancing:
Nov. 2010
$1.4 million
March 1998
$2 million
Recent Sales:
$240,000 10/4/2011
$275,000 8/1/2011
$215,000 2BR/1B 7/2/2011

 

Management Jennifer Ogman, Cooper Square Realty Attorney Patricia L. Kantor, Edwards Wildman Palmer Accountant Steven Adelsberg, Samuel S. Adelsberg & Co.

 

 

 

 

 

Warren Schreiber

Work: Retired MTA employee

Board: President

13-24 Bell Blvd.

Bay Terrace Cooperative Section 1

Queens

Board term 15 years, 11 as president

My Community

The co-op is a garden-apartment complex, with 200 units in 16 buildings on 14 acres of land. Most of our diversity has come in the last 10 or 15 years. We have young families, single parents, young singles, a large number of seniors, and a lot of empty nesters who sold their homes (and might have lived here before and come back).

Our Economic Engine

Within the last 10 years we replaced all the roofs and driveways; since that time, the money has been going to upkeep. We’re not planning to refinance. It’s important to keep a close watch on the money. We don’t let the management company sign our checks. All our checks, no matter what the amount, must have two signatures. We have a 40 percent-on-the-profit flip tax, which brings us a lot of income. We like to have a cost-of-living increase on maintenance every few years. It’s never something we do lightly. I’m not in favor of assessments because they don’t become part of your base maintenance rate. We prefer to avoid them as much as possible.

I wish I had known

I wish I had been more prepared to deal with the different personalities, different points of view. Some people are passive, some people are bullies, some look for compromise.

I didn’t think I would have to become a tax expert or be dealing with the unfunded mandates put down by the government.

I didn’t think I’d be spending so much time advocating for co-op rights. Ten years ago, I don’t think presidents would get involved with that. That’s a major change.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 200
Buildings: 16
Year Built: 1954
Annual Operating Income: $1.8 million
Property Taxes: $235,062
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $200,000
Underlying Financing: $155,000
Recent Refinancing: 1994 $980,000
Recent Sales:
$145,000 5/13/2011
$270,000 2/10/2011
$282,500 2/8/2011

 

Management Joe Donofrio,
B.L. Management Attorney
Geoffrey Mazel, Hankin & Mazel Accountant Stanley Greenberg

 

 

Billy Joe Cruz

Work: Part-time real estate agent

Board: Secretary

139-76 35th Ave.

Parsons Plaza

Queens

Board term 14 years

My Community

The building was in a foreclosure sale, and many who bought in got bargains. The breakdown is Chinese and Korean, a few black and Hispanic. We’re middle class. Jobs include a doctor, investors, an investment banker.

Our Economic Engine

We used to have a management company, and they took all our money and didn’t pay our bills. They didn’t pay our taxes since 2001. I was overseas for two years; I came back in 2007, and we owed $75,000 to $80,000 on our water bill. The manager apparently forged board members’ signatures. After we fired them in May, they transferred $2,700 out of our account, which was all the money we had. They didn’t pay the elevator contract. We had a special assessment for a year in 2009 that was supposed to go toward the water bill, but it didn’t. In April of last year we were in financial ruin. But we made a financial plan, and by October or November we should be back on track without raising the maintenance. We’ve been having problems with management companies since the beginning.

I wish I had known

I wish I had known about Habitat before I was on the board. It’s an education.

I didn’t think I would serve so long. I want to get out.

I wish I knew there would be so much work that was going to take time away from me, like going to the courts.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Condo
Units: 56
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1987
Annual Operating Income: $135,000 (projected)
Property Taxes: $102,439 (cumulative residential taxes)
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: N/A
Recent Sales:
$300,000 153 SF 12/1/2011
$288,000 661 SF 9/20/2011
$216,200 661 SF 5/16/2011

 

Management Self-managed Attorney None Accountant Celia C. Geng & Co.

 

 

 

Jeannette Reed

Work: Retired school superintendent

Board: Vice president

84-49 168th St.

The Beechhaven

Queens

Board term 3.5 years, 3 as vice president

My Community

Our residents are very diverse: educators, retirees, a mixture of people; when we look at the building, we see the United Nations. We have different ethnic types, all religions. We have a lot of long-timers. Some people have been here for 50 to 60 years.

Our Economic Engine

We have a long-range plan, and we work very closely with our accountant and management. They work out scenarios with us. We prioritize and come up with the most conservative figure we can to charge our shareholders. We see what’s workable while being fiscally responsible. We raised maintenance a year and a half ago; your workers’ costs go up, and if our operating costs are projected to go up, we raise it. But our goal as a board is to be as fiscally responsible as we can be, but at the same time as thoughtful as we can be. We do two- to three-year long-range plans.

I wish I had known

The amount of time required. It’s a lot.

I didn’t know about the internal workings of a building: the boilers and those kinds of things.

The detailed intricacies of financial matters.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 120
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1939
Annual Operating Income: $1,340,000
Property Taxes: $225,561
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $1.55 million
Underlying Financing:
$3.208 million
Recent Sales:
$125,000 5/26/2011
$130,000 3/18/2011
$225,000 9/14/2010

Management Remo Rosano, The Lovett Group Attorney Kevin McConnell, Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph Accountant Richard B. Montanye, Marin & Montanye

 

 

 

Bobby Sher

Work: Former owner of music/entertainment company

Board: President

221-22 Manor Rd.

Bell Park Manor Terrace

Queens

Board term 7 years, 5 as president

My Community

It’s a very, very diverse community: multi-colored, multi-everything. We have little children and seniors. It’s middle income. This place was built for people like my father who came home from World War II. A lot of young people are moving in to take their place.

Our Economic Engine

We are proactive. At our board meetings every professional has to be there. We also have special legal or financial meetings every month. We are so on top of things. We had no maintenance increase this year. We are very, very careful in what we do. We get the best people we can at the cheapest prices. If we have an increase or assessment, it’s on a need-to-do basis.

I wish I had known

I was prepared. I came from the board at North Shore Towers, so it was like going to college before high school.

 

 

Economic stats
Type: Co-op
Units: 850 units
Buildings: 50 buildings/47 acres
Year Built: 1951
Annual Operating Income: $8 million
Property Taxes: $548,376
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $1.65 million
Underlying Financing: $8 million
Recent Refinancing: 2008 $8 million
1999 $6 million
Recent Sales:
$185,000 12/20/2011
$181,000 11/21/2011
$30,000 11/11/2011

Management Michael Wolfe, Midboro Management Attorney Geoffrey Mazel, Hankin & Mazel Accountant Joe Giannasco, Bildner & Giannasco

 

 

Robert DiMartini

Work: Web Integration Solutions Consultant for FedEx

Board: Vice president

1300 Midland Ave.

Yonkers, N.Y.

Board term 5 years, 1 as VP

My Community

We have professionals, blue collar, younger, older – the area is very blended. Bronxville is considered very upper class, Fleetwood is middle class, and we’re in between the two neighborhoods. It’s a blended neighborhood. We have some beautiful old homes. It’s very residential, but there are a lot of co-ops too. In our area there are more houses than buildings.

Our Economic Engine

We budget for oil, labor, taxes, snow, repairs – anything that we see coming – we take that all into consideration. If it’s a cost that’s not static – such as oil – we do assessments. Oil prices have gone up and down so much and there’s no way to predict what it’s going to be. This is the first year we did a maintenance raise in five years. We try not to ask for money that we don’t need. We just try to pay the bills and be ready for anything in the coming year.

I wish I had known

I wish I had known more about financing. If I knew what our mortgage was I might not have bought in.

I wish I had known more about the union contracts and how they affect whether work is done by staff or outside people.

I wish I had known the difference between onsite managers and offsite managers. I’ve heard nightmare stories about offsite managers taking two weeks to return a phone call.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 404
Buildings: 3
Year Built: 1962
Annual Operating Income: $3.3 million
Property Taxes: $752,000
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $600,000
Underlying Financing: $10.6 million
Recent Refinancing:
2009 $11 million
1999 $11.5 million
Recent Sales:
$125,000 1BR 1/12/2012
$135,000 JR4 12/11/2011

 

Management Kathleen Masson, Douglas Elliman Attorney Ronald A. Sher, Himmelfarb & Sher Accountant Eric Lafazan, Schulman & Black, CPAs

 

 

 

Michael Barbara

Work: Director of biomedical engineering

Board: President

37 Winchester Ave.

Bryn Mawr Ridge

Yonkers, N.Y.

Board term 16 years, 14 as president

My Community

It’s very mixed. The complex is primarily made up of one-bedrooms. Our biggest market is cops, firemen, and teachers. It’s perfect for them as starter apartments. We also have a number of seniors.

Our Economic Engine

We recently imposed our first maintenance increase in almost five years at six percent. We’ve done a lot of rebate programs with our boiler and lighting companies.

We went out on the futures market and locked into a two-year gas contract, so we were paying 69 cents a therm, so the price of oil has not affected us. We had dual-fuel capabilities and we had been riding the market, on whatever was cheaper to burn. Since then, we’ve gone to straight gas and use no oil on the property. We reduced our fuel budget by $160,000 last year alone. We are sponsor-free and we have 68 rent-regulated tenants; as they are vacated we sell them and put the money into capital projects.

I wish I had known

I initially joined the board to protect my investment. What I never realized was how much work it is and how much people depend on you. They tend to gravitate toward the president.

It’s a lot of work. Because I work a day job, I spend a lot of time with contractors after five o’clock. I spend 20 hours a week, if not more, on board issues.

Especially in this economy, everybody has a story. It’s challenging dealing with the personal issues of 528 families.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 528
Buildings: 19
Year Built: 1958
Annual Operating Income: $4 million
Property Taxes: $800,000
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $1 million
Underlying Financing: $10.5 million
Recent Refinancing:
2006 $10.5 million
1998 $9.5 million
Recent Sales:
$170,000 2BR 1/2012
$165,000 2BR 11/2011
$125,000 1BR 10/2011

 

Management Teresa Peteli, Prime Locations Attorney Domenick Tammaro, Smith, Buss & Jacobs Accountant Mel Savitz

 

 

 

Stu Hochron

Work: Retired pharmaceutical marketer and medical educator

Board: President

12 Bond St.

Bond Parc Condominium

Great Neck, N.Y.

Board term 16 years

My Community

Seventy percent retired persons and widows; 35 percent Persian. We have a woman who is 102. Eight renters. There are not a lot of children.

Our Economic Engine

We haven’t had a maintenance increase in my 16 years on the board. About 10 years ago, I solicited wireless communications companies, and we now have four using our roof. That brings in close to $200,000 in additional revenue. When I realized how much income could be generated by this, using them seemed like a no-brainer. Two years ago when the economy went into the toilet, I told our regular contractors – the elevator company, the HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] company – that if they didn’t lower prices, we would put the work out to bid. There were significant reductions in our annual contracts. As for repairs and capital work, we prioritize our needs. For example, I would like to change the lighting in my lobby, but I will put that off until I have the money.

I wish I had known

There are a lot of people quick to criticize and who are slow to show appreciation for the work you’ve done. That is very, very frustrating.

There are people who come on the board with their own agenda and are not always thinking of the good of the building. That’s very disheartening to me.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Condo
Units: 40
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1982
Annual Operating Income: $750,000
Property Taxes: $415,257.96 (cumulative residential taxes)
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $1.5 million over 10 years
($800,000 five years ago)
Recent Sales:
$770,000 1,375 SF 4/2007
$750,000 1,325 SF 3/2007
$850,000 1,780 SF 10/2004

 

Management Self-managed Attorney Marc Schneider, Schneider Mitola Accountant Don Klareich

 

 

 

Jay Confino

Work: Homemaker

Board: President

8 Barstow Rd.

The Wychwood

Great Neck, N.Y.

Board term 10+ years, 5 as president

My Community

We have retirees, young couples, a lot of older people who sold their houses, families who want a starter home, and half-a-dozen renters. We don’t have very high turnover. Two to four units a year sell.

Our Economic Engine

I review the budget with the manager, the treasurer, and any other board members that want to get involved, then present a report to the full board at the end of the year. The market punishes boards that raise maintenance, so we have kept it very tight. We just did a three percent increase for first time in five years. Assessments are for capital improvements only. We have other means of income: commercial rent, storage units, the laundry room, and processing fees.

I wish I had known

I wish I had known there was no way to get off it.

Before I came on the board, I was close to the president, so there were no surprises when I came on.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 85
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1928-29
Annual Operating Income: $1.1 million
Property Taxes: $428,824
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $501,171
Underlying Financing: $2.4 million
Recent Refinancing: Dec. 2004 $2.2 million
Aug. 2001 $2.2 million
Recent Sales:
$235,000 1BR/1B 11/10/2011
$285,000 1BR/1B 1/19/2011
$299,000 1BR/1B 11/23/2010

 

Management Daragh Houlihan, Richland Management Attorney Marc Schneider and Ryan Mitola, Schneider Mitola Accountant Lois Clinco, MayerMeinberg

 

 

Andrea Payne

Work: Legal assistant

Board: President

175 Main Ave.

wheatley heights, N.Y.

Board term 3 years, 2 as president

My Community

It’s suburban, very mixed, very diverse. We have seniors, young people, it’s a great mixture. The neighborhood is nice and is in one of the best school districts in Suffolk County. We’re next to a farm, and it’s very accessible to the highway.

Our Economic Engine

We discovered in 2008 that our previous manager had pilfered about $260,000 – and possibly more. Some contractors weren’t paid. Fortunately, we’ve been very frugal in our spending. We’ve been putting together a wish list of things that really need our attention, but we don’t want to have an assessment; some residents are having trouble just paying the maintenance. We are currently in the process of looking to have our four roofs replaced and possibly having solar panels added in the new roofing system. We are in the preliminary stages of meeting and ideally would like to complete this by year-end. We do have monthly infusions of cash into the reserves, which most co-ops do not do.

I wish I had known

How to really run the building. I’m looking into seminars on how to run a board. It can be quite overwhelming.

I wish I had known about the misappropriations [by our manager]. I didn’t realize the extent of it until I joined the board.

The amount of work. I don’t go to sleep sometimes until two in the morning, what with calls and e-mails and other board business. It’s like having another full-time job that you don’t get paid for.

 

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 80
Buildings: 4
Year Built: 1972
Annual Operating Income: $149,783.95
Property Taxes: $130,744
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $108,647,000
Underlying Financing: $43,571
Recent Refinancing: 2003 $43,571
Recent Sales:
$144,900 1BR/1B 7/18/2011
$109,000 1BR/1B 5/11/2011
$165,000 2BR/1.5B 6/17/2010

 

Management Maryann Carro-Caputo, Tribor Management Attorney Emanuela Lupu, Smith, Buss & Jacobs Accountant Howard Zapken, Zapken & Loeb

 

 

 

 

George Doerre

Work: Commercial banker

Board: President

380 Mountain Rd.

Troy Towers

union city, N.J.

Board term 3.5 years, 1 as president

My Community

We have a mixture, ranging from people who are freshly graduated from college to people in their 80s. We also have young professionals and couples who are commuting to New York. The demographic has shifted younger.

Our Economic Engine

We are conservative in our budget planning; any leftover money goes into the reserve fund. We stockpile money for when major work has to be done. We’ve tried to avoid assessments. When the cost of energy spiked, we didn’t have any choice. We look at everything aggressively: can we get a better price? More bids? Our treasurer has been locking in energy prices. We have worked to maximize revenues without going back to the shareholders. We’re searching for innovations. We have a cellular antenna on the roof. It’s a nice revenue stream. We have some commercial tenants, and we monitor the rental market closely. We’ve done a reserve study, and we cross-reference them against our long-term plan.

I wish I had known

How many issues there are on which you have to educate yourself and educate fellow board members and residents. There are incredible financial and technical/engineering considerations, and there is a community relations aspect with the shareholders and the community beyond the building.

It’s an incredible opportunity to become part of the community and appreciate the history and fabric of the building over time. You start to appreciate the evolution of the building and its people over time.

You’re not just running a business, you’re also dealing with people in their homes. It’s not just the idea you have: it’s the way you present it to the residents. This is their investment but it’s also their home. It’s important that everyone’s on board.

 

— Economic stats —
Type: Co-op
Units: 315
Buildings: 1
Year Built: 1964-66
Annual Operating Income: $5 million
Property Taxes: $1,423,123
Last Three Years’ Capital Spending: $720,000
Underlying Financing: $6 million
Recent Refinancing:
2010 $6 million
2000 $6 million
Recent Sales:
$149,000 1BR 12/27/2011
$129,000 1BR (estate sale) 10/24/2011
$375,000 2BR 8/25/2011

 

Management Ed Frank, Arthur Edwards Attorney Joe Fiorenzo, Sokol, Behot, & Fiorenzo Accountant Ed Wilkin, WilkinGuttenplan

 

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