New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Joni and Goliath

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As a child in 1955, I moved into Hilltop Village Cooperative No. 3 – two seven-story buildings, with 100 units per building, in Hollis, Queens. It’s 57 years later, and I have now spent the last six years as board president. Hard to believe, yet true!

Being president requires a huge amount of time, energy, and work. I happen to be an extremely hands-on officer, because this is not just a corporation, it’s also my home. I have an accounting background that enables me to understand the financial aspects of the corporation and to realize that patience and prioritizing are key elements to a financially sound corporation. You must use your finances wisely, since your ability to bring in extra money for the co-op is limited.

I don’t back away from something that seems too difficult or unattainable. I look at it as a challenge and will see it through to the end, if I feel that it’s worth tackling. Take my “David and Goliath” story in which I, as David, took on New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which unwittingly played Goliath.

In 2006, we employed a firm to make certain that our water meters were functioning properly and being read accurately. In addition, it was to make certain that our water and sewer bills were correct. If there were any errors, the company would request any necessary adjustments. Well, surprise! The DEP had an $89,013.26 credit on our account. Why couldn’t we get the money instead? I asked. Theoretically, we could, but we were required to submit specific forms and paperwork. That was a no-brainer. I was bound and determined to receive a check and invest it for my cooperative. Watch out, New York City, here I come!

Everyone said it was crazy, that I would never get the check, but I don’t accept the word “no” when I believe something can be done. I decided to be the proverbial “squeaky wheel.” I became the DEP’s contact person. The DEP sent out a person to adjust this pipe and another to adjust that one. Then another person is sent to install that connector and another to install this one. After any repair, adjustment, or installation, the city requires an inspector to come to the site to approve the work. It generally takes two weeks between each and every job, including any inspections, in order for the paperwork to be submitted. There wasn’t going to be any additional time lost, if I could help it!

So, with that knowledge, I called the DEP myself to schedule all the appointments. At last, the final remote meter! I called to schedule the inspector to come and do his inspection. I reached the head of the department – it was now 15 months since my mission began – and he must have taken pity on me. He couldn’t believe how long and how much effort I had put into this task, and he wanted to help me, so he did something that had never been done before. He pulled an inspector off another job and sent him to my site the same day – actually, a few hours after my phone call. He was going to inspect the completed work first and then submit the paperwork. Oh, my angel! Now I can request the refund check.

One month later, on April 1, 2008, we received it. But, as you can probably guess by now, I’m no fool! I hurried off to the bank to deposit the check for $62,088.98 into our reserve account. Ah! Sweet victory!

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