Lorry Bogarsky lives in a two-building, 68-unit cooperative in Hewlett, New York, where she served on the board for ten years before becoming president five years ago. She first lived in the building as a young adult back in 1952, when her family moved from the Bronx and the building was barely five years old. She married and moved out, staying in the community, and 17 years ago, she and her second husband bought an apartment in that same co-op, gut-renovated it, and made it their retirement home.
How did you come to serve on the board?
When we were here about two years, an opening occurred on the board, and I was asked if I had interest in serving. At that time, I still owned my own employment agency, and I didn’t know if I wanted to take on another business, but I said yes.
What have you learned in your time on the board?
This is not an easy job. It is a thankless job, because if anything goes wrong, who do they blame? The president of the board. I enjoy all of it – except when my phone rings at 10 o’clock. Having been a businesswoman for so many years of my life, and having been in a service business, it’s just a part of my outlook that you interact with the people you see daily. I know all of the 68 shareholders. We have two open shareholders’ meetings a year. People who ask questions get answers.
A lot of people come to a co-op with a renter’s mentality, where the feeling is, “Let the landlord take care of it; he’s making a lot of money.” We’re not landlords. We’re shareholders in a corporation, and therefore we have to share, and we often have to remind the shareholders that the people on the board are part of an assessment, too. Some of them don’t want to hear that. A co-op means everybody bears responsibility equally.
Tell me about some of the projects your co-op has undertaken and why.
We have, over the past several years, been through [some] very major capital improvements, which we did out of our reserve fund. Fiscal management is prime. Because we were able to do that, we were able to put a new roof on the building, which was very much needed after Hurricane Sandy.
We have been talking for several years about new windows: the windows were replaced 25 years ago, and a great product was not chosen, and there are apartments where the windows don’t go up and down. Now our building has excellent curb appeal, we really need to have windows that work. So we are on a window-replacement project, and there is an assessment for that. It’s the first time we’ve had an assessment in five years, and we haven’t even had a raise in rate in three years because we’ve watched our dollars so carefully.
What advice would you give to newcomers on the board?
I would advise new board members to listen carefully and bring their own experience to the table, because everybody brings something. At our last open meeting, there was this discussion about the windows, and [people said,] “We didn’t know that,” and “You didn’t tell us that,” which was really not true, but people don’t pay attention to their mail or to the notices slipped under our door. One board member said, “Why don’t we just provide everybody with an agenda?” What a simple thing. But he’s a school principal, so that to him is a basic tool: you go a meeting, you get an agenda, you know what’s going to happen at the meeting. My advice is bring what you know, listen to the people who have been there longer, and don’t be afraid to express your feelings.
This interview was edited for length and clarity