New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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A good head for finances can benefit a board president – but so does having great staff.
The board president of Le Havre, Stanley Greenberg, describes how his finance background prepared him for the intricacies of board duty.
Stanley Greenberg, board president
Le Havre, Queens
Stanley Greenberg rarely gets fazed at his co-op’s shareholder meetings. “I’m not really surprised. We definitely have times when people bring their individual problems to the floor, [even if it] may not be the right venue for [it]. But it happens. It’s just the nature of the game, especially if they don’t think they’re getting satisfaction from the general management.”
A certified public accountant who specializes in auditing co-ops and condos, Greenberg is the former treasurer and current board president at Le Havre, a 1,024-unit cooperative nestled between the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges in the Beechhurst section of Queens that was built between 1956 and 1958.
“It’s a beautiful complex [spanning more than] 27 acres of land with many grassy areas, trees, shrubs, beautiful landscaping,” observes Greenberg. “The development has a country effect. It’s not in the city with just brick and mortar. You have the feeling of airiness, [like] you’re really not in New York City.”
Beyond the neighborhood, Le Havre also boasts a number of amenities: two swimming pools, three tennis courts, a fully operational gym with exercise equipment, and a clubhouse. To keep everything running, the 11-member board taps into a $16 million annual budget.
Greenberg admits running the 32-building complex is not easy. “Thirty-two buildings,” he observes. “That means we have 32 elevators. We have 32 roofs. Everything is 32 times, and that’s a challenge.” The trick is having “a great staff of people in our maintenance and our administrative offices. They keep on top of things very nicely. They report to me what has to be [addressed], and we make decisions on the property.” The co-op is self-managed with an on-site office and a large administrative and maintenance staff.
“I know cooperatives and finances well,” says Greenberg, 67, who moved into the waterside complex in 1972, a dozen years before it was converted to a co-op. “One reason I ran for the board is my knowledge of the industry. Making sure the finances are handled correctly is very important to me. I want to lend my experience to the place where I live, to try and put into place various cost savings.”
In the past decade, the co-op replaced all its roofs and windows, fixed its parking lots, and redid the façade of the buildings because they were, he recalls, “leaking profusely. We were able to stop all those leaks. That was a challenge. Water was pouring in crazily into people’s apartments any time it rained. We don’t have that issue anymore. Now, our plant is in pretty good order.”
Greenberg – a family man, with a daughter and son out on their own – has been an accountant since he left college. He has little spare time, but when he finds it, he can be seeing enjoying his co-op’s many amenities.
Usually, however, he’s busy working for his co-op or his business. In 2000, he left a large accounting firm to branch out as a solo practitioner specializing in co-ops and condos. “I know everything [about] them,” he says. “It’s a very good niche for me.”
In his own co-op, he notes that he keeps “a very tight rein on expenditures. Last year, the conversion of our boilers from oil fuel to natural gas fuel saved the co-op about 30 percent on its bill this past heating season, which allowed the board to avoid a maintenance increase.” Typically, however, he believes that “you have small increases as you go along.” By doing that, you are “not going to be hit with a huge increase where all of a sudden you wake up and say, ‘Wait, my budget deficit is huge.’”
He believes that it’s the board’s job to explain the financial situation and operational matters to the shareholders, which is one reason the property holds two public meetings every year. “We hold this meeting in June for that purpose,” he says. “Then we have the normal annual meeting, which has been taking place in October ever since the inception of the cooperative.
“We get to give the shareholders the opportunity to ask us questions regarding finances and budget,” he continues. “It gives us the chance to present to them the budget and explain what’s going on financially. If there’s an increase in the carrying charges, we’ll make that announcement at that meeting also. Then, of course, you have questions that are outside the area of finances – people like to ask about what’s going on. Normally, I will give a little dissertation as far as any projects that we’re in the midst or that we plan [on doing in] the future.”
Attendance is good, he says, although that may be for other reasons besides budgeting. “It’s held by the pool,” admits Greenberg, who adds: “It’s a nice atmosphere.”
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