Mary Ann Palumbo, board president
9201 Shore Road
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Mary Ann Palumbo has been a resident at 9201 Shore Road in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn for 26 years, moving into the 253-unit building shortly before it went co-op. Although the 55-year-old property has a name, The Len, “no one calls it that,” says Palumbo, who notes that more and more young professionals are moving in. The reason, she says, is because “the area is terrific. It’s got tons of stores; it’s got great restaurants; it has easy access to the city. We have an express bus right there; you can get to the subway. We have a beautiful view of the water. We have eight miles of park. It’s very attractive to families, and the elderly can walk all over the place because of the parks.” Retired, after 25 years in marketing at Penguin Books USA as senior vice president and deputy publisher, she was elected to the nine-member board two years ago and soon became president.
After over 20 years living at 9201, you decided to get on your co-op’s board. What made you do that?
I was working [at Penguin] and was consumed with that. My biggest author was Stephen King; I worked with him for 25 years. He liked to scare people but he was a very nice man. And then I formed my own business in 1998. I was working part of the time from Manhattan, and part of the time I worked at home. Then I retired and I wanted to get involved because I felt like I needed to do more in the building and do more for my home. It was time.
You were in marketing. Did that help you on the board in any way?
In my position, I worked very closely with the publisher, and so I was not just involved in marketing, but I was involved in lots of different parts of business including working with outside contractors, negotiating, budgeting, watching the budget, making business decisions, scheduling – that kind of thing. And so I think that it’s really important to have some kind of business experience when you are on the board because, ultimately, a co-op is a business. You want to make smart decisions for the business of the co-op as well as for the shareholders.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Brooklyn College. My mom was a homemaker but did a lot of volunteer work in the school and local areas, and my father owned a grocery store; he was a grocer. My mother was a big reader, a huge reader, and so I became that way. I went to public school, and when we used to get summer vacation I would run to the library because you were allowed to take out more than four books. So I was always a voracious reader, and actually my entrée to publishing was through an uncle of mine who worked at a printing company and knew of an opening. I find [reading is] the only thing that I can do where you can’t multitask. I am a multitasker. But when you read, it takes you away from everything, and you can get totally absorbed in the book. I find it very relaxing.
You’ve undertaken a number of projects in your brief time on the board.
We are doing tons of projects, yeah. We were paying very high interest on our mortgages. We refinanced and got an extremely good rate of 3.3 percent. We refinanced and got an additional several million dollars to do these projects.
What are some of the projects?
We just finished the elevators. Probably in the next week or two, we will be refurbishing the whole building, meaning we are doing all the hallways and lobby over. We have done the fire escapes. We put new grills on all our air conditioner covers. We did a project in the garage where we fixed all the structural issues; we painted it. We are going to do the roof. We are looking at the boiler system, and will probably be getting new boilers, considering hot water heaters, and stuff like that. There are a lot of other little projects.
Do you find it fulfilling to be on the board?
Well, I do because I feel like we have accomplished a great deal. We have a great group on the board, and the manager, FirstService, has been invaluable. I think everybody should step up to the plate. A lot of people sort of lie back and say, “Let someone else do it.” I waited until I could give it my proper attention; I was very quiet. When I was elected to the board, the doorman told me something funny. After the election, somebody went up to the doorman and said, “Who won?” and he said, “Mary Ann Palumbo.” They said “Who?” Because I had laid back very quietly for many years, very few people knew me. I just moved in and out, very involved in my job. And now, of course, when you are on the board, you are very visible.