Board President Louis R. Zurita
Louis R. Zurita is an Upper West Sider from birth – and he hasn’t strayed far from his roots. As a child, he lived off West End Avenue on 94th Street, and years later, when he bought an apartment for himself; he was one of the original residents in the Columbia condominium. While the towering condo was to herald gentrifying change on the Upper West Side, it hadn’t happened in 1984. “There was a lot of noise and the neighborhood was kind of rough,” Zurita recalls. He found quieter digs at 101 West 79th Street, a.k.a. the Park Belvedere. He missed his old hood, however, and returned to the Columbia for good in 2000. He signed up for board service seven years later. “Why did I come back to the Columbia?” he asks rhetorically. “Because when I searched around, I felt it was the best value.” That phrase – “best value” – is almost a mantra with Zurita, an architect and investor who is married and has two children.
Why did you get on the board?
I felt I could help. I’m an architect. I have a background in real estate, too, looking at investment opportunities. As an investor, I look to the development side to add value. I also went to business school, so I have a background in the business side of things. I spent several years as an asset manager for a family. I ran a lot of buildings.
Why did you run for president?
I thought I could make things run better. The person who was president didn’t have the background I had or the experience. One of the things I have been trying to do is have things run more efficiently and be more cost-effective. Something might cost a little bit more but, in the long run, it gives a payoff. These are simple business decisions, but they have to be approached, and they have to be handled. I think that a lot of it is overlooked.
You’re trying to find more energy-efficient ways to run the building. Is that one way to look at it? That it’s a so-called “business approach.”
There’s never been a real review of systems, staff, and management in this building. That’s what I’m trying to do now, just reviewing everything to see where are the gaps or where are the areas that can use improvement. That’s what I’d like. I think Blue Woods Management is doing fine. I just want to have a standard to use for evaluating service.
You’re about to begin refurbishing the common areas. How did that come about?
I’ve talked about this for years, but for one reason or another it’s been put off. I’ve talked about redoing all the hallways: the wallpaper, ceiling, lighting, carpeting, doorways, doorbells, and door knobs. I’m always of the thought that if you know what you have you can be better prepared. For example, look at the airplanes. When you fly on JetBlue or American, any of these airlines, what they do generally is they have a schedule for flying time. After 500 hours of flight time, say, they change the tires automatically. They don’t wait for the tires to be totally worn out. They don’t say, “Look, the tire doesn’t look like it’s really that worn. Let’s leave it a little longer.” They take it out. They change it. They put on a new one. That’s basically the maintenance schedule.
That’s my perspective on things. That’s my take. That’s the way I’d like to see it done in here. You want to be able to plan for everything. Because if you plan for it, and you’re ready for it, and you do it, then you won’t be caught with your pants down. – T.S.