New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Sarah Moffitt talks about her historic building and take-charge attitude.
A board full of professionals – including some “super-bossy” people – can get almost anything done.
Sarah Moffitt jokes that the secret to her success is that she’s “super-bossy.” Although she admits that there’s no degree in “super-bossiness,” she adds, “I have some management experience. I’m organized. Those are my major skills.”
The former board president of the Parkside Association, a co-op in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Moffitt has put those skills to work at her 89-year-old building, where she has lived for eight years.
The five-member board in the self-managed building currently consists of professionals. “Three of them are newer to the building,” says Moffitt. “They’re taking really active hands in trying to manage the building. The other two have lived here for a long time.”
She acknowledges that the neighborhood is changing. Once known as “Finntown” because of its large Finnish population, the area now has sizable numbers of Polish, Asian, and Hispanic residents. Moffitt’s building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still has a very active Polish community, and the residents – both Polish and non-Polish – range from older shareholders who have lived in the building a long time, to middle-aged people who’ve lived there upwards of 15 years, and a “handful” of recent arrivals.
“Our treasurer is Polish, which is great because he sort of represents that community a little bit,” Moffitt notes. “Sometimes we have some language barrier issues, so it’s always great. He’s younger, but because he speaks Polish he can speak with some of the older Polish members who sometimes have trouble communicating when they have complex issues.”
Moffitt was a “take-charge” president, but she says she knew her limitations. On a recent roof repair job, she and the other board members discussed running the project themselves. Once they began doing the research, however, “we realized that we were just not equipped to run this job. One of the roofers said, ‘Oh, where’s your work spec?’ I was like, ‘A what?’”
The board subsequently talked to “a couple of engineers” before hiring RAND Engineering & Architecture in January 2015. After RAND wrote the specs, the board reviewed bids from five companies and, for Moffitt, the choice of Proto Construction came down to personal issues. “They’ve been around for a while and they’re a family-run company, which we liked,” she says. “I did also like the fact that, when I met with them to discuss parts of the job, that they were not condescending to me, which sometimes I feel like happens with contractors, especially when they’re dealing with a woman.”
Moffitt, a mother of two, says board service can be rewarding – even if you aren’t super-bossy. “You just have to be involved,” she says. “I don’t have to understand exactly which types of materials [a contractor] is using where and why. But I do need to be able to organize it, get the job done, get it financed, and hire the right people. When they present us with options, I have to be able to understand them and explain them to the other board members, so that we can vote. In the end, you just have to make a decision and get it done.”
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