I don’t remember when I first met Andrea Bunis, but I never had any trouble remembering when I had talked to her. Blunt and to the point, Andrea always spoke her mind – not always appropriate for publication, but always with insights about the co-op and condo management business to which she dedicated her life.
“I’ve given up trying to reason with the boards,” she said to me once. “Now, I just do what I’m told – only drawing the line at illegalities.” The situations she said she encountered were mind-blowing: she’s repped a board where the president wanted to challenge the lease of a restaurant because he didn’t like the food; another where a woman complained about not getting a tax abatement for her apartment even though she no longer lived in the building (but still served on the board); and another where a board member threatened the manager with an AK-47 because he didn’t like the answer the agent gave him.
“They should try to imagine what it would be like if they weren’t on the board,” Bunis said bluntly. “Are they truly looking out for the building or are they looking out for themselves?”
The cynicism reflected her years of experience in handling boards and people, and although apparently frustrated by a number of her clients, she never gave up on them, and she seemed virtually indestructible. Therefore, it was startling to hear that Bunis, 57, had died of pancreatic cancer on August 25. She founded Andrea Bunis Management 30 years ago and was the recipient of numerous industry honors, including Habitat’s Management Achievement Award. She will be missed.
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Another transition, albeit a less traumatic one, has occurred at Gerard J. Picaso Inc. Jerry, whom I’ve known since I started working in this business three decades ago, is merging his 32-year-old management firm with the much larger Halstead Management Company. When we first met, I felt as though we were old friends. I, of course, recognized him instantly from his ads – “Every building should have a Picaso,” with Jerry sitting in a picture frame, and the more famous promo of him standing on a rooftop, arms outstretched, with a cityscape in the background.
We hit it off instantly. I was impressed by his keen knowledge of the industry (which he had started learning as a young man, working in the buildings his father ran for Lawrence-Picaso), insights into people, and ready wit. When Jerry phoned me the other day with the news of the merger, my first thought was, “There goes the last of the independents.” But Jerry saw it differently: after Halstead approached him about selling his company – but allowing Picaso to keep running his operation as he always had – the deal sounded more appealing. Imagine: not worrying about paying the rent or about job security for his employees, just doing what he has always enjoyed doing, interacting with people as he manages their properties. “It’s a good thing,” he said.
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And finally, another Habitat award-winner is going through a transition. Mark Greenberg Real Estate, better known these days by the handle MGRE, is “combining” with the Charles H. Greenthal Group. “It’s not a merger, it’s a partnership,” says MGRE director of management Steve Greenbaum. According to a press release put out by MGRE, “this combination strategically brings together two leading property management firms and allows them to offer enhanced and comprehensive management services for current clients, as well as the ability to broaden client bases.”
In other words, bigger is better. Well, I’ve known Steve almost as long as I’ve known Jerry, and Greenthal is certainly getting the real deal by merging, combining, partnering, or whatever you want to call it. Steve’s one savvy management exec – and the rest of Team MGRE doesn’t seem so bad, either. Kudos to all!