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Director Q&A: Barry Klitsberg

Director Q&A


Barry Klitsberg
Board president, Quality and Ruskin Apartments Corp., Forest Hills, Queens


Have you always wanted to serve on a cooperative board?

After the first couple of years here, I thought that it might be a smart idea. I had some suggestions, and the existing board had a vacancy. So they asked me to sit on the board.


Did anything in your professional experience prepare you for this work?

My professional experience is with the federal government, at the Department of Health and Human Services. We deal with programs for seniors. We fund them so the states or local governments can provide services. We make sure that the states and local governments are in compliance with the Older Americans Act. We provide assistance to states with their policy issues. We monitor their performance. The positive side of that, as far as the co-op is concerned, is that I am familiar with “people work” and how to negotiate my way through the mounds of paper[work] we have to deal with.


What are your strengths as a board member?

I am very persistent. I pay attention to detail.

A number of years ago, we needed to purchase new boilers. We have 12 buildings; we needed 12 boilers. Our building is managed by Argo, and they also sit on the board as the sponsor. There is another Argo co-op in the neighborhood that has eight buildings, and they also were in a similar situation. So, we combined our purchase with theirs, and we did a purchase for 20 boilers. We were able to save a bit of money by doing a larger purchase.


As a board member, you have to care about the people, while simultaneously making hard choices for the corporation. How do you handle it?

I talk to people. I explain that whenever I do something, it’s not because of a whim. I always have a reason for what I do, and it’s usually the safety or the infrastructure of the buildings or the grounds. Even if they don’t agree, at least they understand where you’re coming from. So once I do that, they tend to buy into [the] project.


Were you in any leadership role as a child?

No. I was an average kid. I just wanted to play ball and look at girls.


Where did you grow up?

In Queens, in Long Island City – in a housing project for a while, and then other areas.


What do you do in your spare time?

I like to read a lot, mostly nonfiction, historical books, biographies. Right now, I am reading a book about Jesus Christ called Zealot. It talks about Jesus not as the religious icon, but as the actual person behind the religious aspect; that “him” being – they called it “a bandit” back then, but that was the term they used for a revolutionary. Before that, I read a book about Roosevelt and Churchill that was just a fascinating study of the two characters and how they worked with each other for their own needs – which became mutual ends, which was obviously the war.


What are some of the major challenges you have had?

Sometimes getting things done is time-consuming. It takes a long time to finish projects, or even to get them started – to go through all the bids from the vendors and the specifications. Sometimes I don’t have the patience for all that. So that’s one of the things that drives me because I want these things done yesterday.


How do you keep going when it gets frustrating?

[laughing] I yell at people on the board, or mostly the property manager. I don’t yell at the board, really; I yell at the property manager. He knows when I am calling that something is up, or something is not being done the way I expected.


Do you have a favorite saying or expression?

“Don’t get mad, get even” and “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

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