New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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President Carol Butler uses her skills as a psychoanalyst to keep her condo on course.
With extensive capital work required at her building, board president Carol Butler is in in the thick of it, mixing it up with contractors, the manager, and fellow board members.
Board President Carol Butler
Built in 1967, the 75-unit condominium at 60 West 13th Street is in the heart of the West Village. The building is populated by a cross-section of people, ranging from young professionals, many in finance, to older couples, some of whom bought units 40 years ago. One of the first residents to live there was Carol A. Butler, who has been active on the board for many years. Possibly because she hoped to be an architect (but “ended up” as a psychoanalyst), the former Bronx native has overseen a great deal of capital work: brick replacement, pointing, waterproofing work, painting, parapet replacement, window sill replacement, and caulking. “She is always very hands-on,” observes Michael Larkin, a senior structural engineer at RAND Engineering & Architecture, a firm that has worked with the condo for many years. When we talked with her, Butler had just finished supervising an expensive repair job in the building that she hoped would eliminate serious leaks in the upper floors.
I hear that you are very hands-on. What’s your involvement in the recent capital work?
There are millions of decisions that have to be made about materials. What kind of drain should you put in? How do you handle it? What should the design be? You get the site visit report, you review it, and there is always some discussion about unresolved issues in the report that need to be dealt with going forward. We met with the contractor a lot of times, but not on any regular basis. Oftentimes Michael [Larkin of RAND] had to come to the building to look at something, and then I would meet with him. Our agent, Jeff Lamb at J&C Lamb Management, has an engineering background, and I wanted to be an architect at one point, so I’m also interested in the details. But I don’t know that I’m any more hands-on than any other board president, because I only know what I do.
What attracted you to the building?
I had just been married for a couple of years. We needed to move, and we pulled up in the car in front of this building, and my husband, who is a Harvard MBA and is a very sophisticated guy, said, “Let’s look.” I said, “This is ridiculous, we don’t have the money to buy an apartment. Why are we wasting our time?” I was really very difficult. He said, “Let’s just go in and look.” We didn’t know what a condominium was – this was only the second large condominium in New York – and I didn’t even know what a mortgage was. We went in, and as soon as they explained what was involved, and what the down payment was, and that they had arranged for a mortgage with Banker’s Trust, I understood immediately and realized it was a much better deal than the rental apartments we were looking at.
Why did you join the board?
I own more than one apartment in the building, and I also have an office downstairs. I’m a psychoanalyst and a divorce mediator, and I work in the building, so I’m here a lot. My kids went to school in the neighborhood, so I’ve always been very invested in the building. And the building has a good mixture of people: from financial people to people in art and design; then some older people who bought here a long time ago, and a lot of families with kids now, quite a few.
Have you ever been tempted to step down?
I dropped off once when we had somebody on the board who was an alcoholic who would come to the meetings drunk. It drove me insane, and I couldn’t do it, so I quit. Then he quit, and I came back. We now have one new member, because one very valuable member started traveling a lot, and just wasn’t available for meetings on a regular basis.
Does your background and your work as a psychoanalyst help you on the board?
Probably. [She laughs.] Seriously, though, we have a great board, and it’s been very stable. Almost everyone’s been on the board a really long time, and it is very harmonious. It’s really a pleasure to be on it – otherwise, I wouldn’t be.
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