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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

The Transparency Equation: 128 Instead of 1

The Normandy

Forest Hills, Queens

Jeff Glasser has his landlord to thank. Thirty-two years ago, he was living in Whitestone, and had only been married a short time when his landlord raised the rent, which forced Glasser to think about his situation. “With a rental, you’re just throwing money away,” he explains. So he and his wife decided to buy, and they went shopping for a co-op in Forest Hills, Queens. The couple found an apartment in the 128-unit Normandy, an elegant prewar property, and moved into the building in 1984. (They transitioned into a larger unit a short time later, and have lived there ever since, raising a son and a daughter.) Glasser was elected to the board in 1985 and served for five years, retiring for health reasons. He returned in 1997 and has served as treasurer – his day job as a CPA helped him in that – and as secretary. Since 2001 he has been president, serving for the typical reasons that most board members cite when asked why they do it – “I wanted to be involved, and it’s also a way to protect your investment” – but he genuinely seems to take the words “community” and “involvement” very seriously.

You’re very involved in your building. Do you think you’ll get to a point where you get tired and retire from it?

No, I definitely wouldn’t. Absolutely not. I like being involved. I’m community-minded. I was involved with my kids’ schools. I was on the parents’ association executive board. I was [part of] the Student Leadership Team. When my son went into Little League, I started to get involved in the Little League. When my son was in the Boy Scouts, I helped out with the Boy Scouts. A lot of it was started from my kids’ interests.

Has your job as a CPA helped you on the board?

I knew about co-op living, because as a CPA, when I first started out in accounting, I did a lot of real estate accounting and that was a time when landlords were converting buildings to co-ops.

Your building is unusual in that you have two shareholders’ meetings a year. How did that come about?

We decided – and this was a very long time ago – that as part of being transparent with shareholders, we should explain the budget, especially any increases. We have what’s technically an informational meeting. They get an opportunity to speak directly to us during the budget meeting, as well as the annual meeting. At that meeting, which is always in the first week of December, we discuss the budget at length. It sometimes can get a little contentious when you raise the maintenance, but if you know why you’ve done it, and you had a good basis for making that decision, then you explain it the best you can. The board, as a whole, tries to be transparent. That’s why we don’t really have a lot of shareholder issues because we’re up front, and if somebody asks a question, we answer it as completely and as honestly as we can.

The worst thing you could ever do – and politicians should realize this, but they still don’t – is not understand that the cover-up is a lot worse than the crime. You can’t cover up. It’s just not good.

It’s important to really listen to what the people are saying.

It’s extraordinarily important to listen to what people say to you. Very important. Someone will just run into a board member in the hall or in the lobby and mention something. They bring that to the meeting. We ask the managing agent to look into it. I’m also very much in favor of keeping the whole board as informed as possible, rather than just me having all this knowledge back and forth with the managing agent. I think that is generally a good thing. I know there are plenty of presidents of buildings that think they’re king of the building, but I don’t view my position that way. There is a tremendous free-flow of ideas and I’ve been very, very lucky to have really good people on the board with me as president over the past, what is it, almost 14 years.

It also helps that we have a great managing agent. Kaled is great, but specifically our managing agent, who is Jodee Sarisky, is fantastic. With our old managing agent we had three-hour board meetings; now they are only one-hour board meetings. Basically it’s because she gets everything done in the month; 95 percent of what we needed done in the month she takes care of.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being on the board?

To make decisions that are right for the building. We don’t really have adversarial arguments in this building with shareholders, so I think the weight of being a board member now for me is just to try and do the right thing for everybody. But one philosophy of mine – and it should be every board member’s – is that you always need to take a step back from your own personal agenda or view, and then you have to think of the big picture. There are 128 units in this building, and you have to think for 128 instead of 1. That’s something that every board member needs to do. I keep that in mind all the time.

 

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