Paul Marks, Board President
Forest Park, Queens
Paul Marks always seems to end up in leadership roles. Maybe it’s because he cares about people. As evidence of that, note that Marks, who has worked for the postal service for 13 years, became a union representative to look out for his co-workers’ interests. He subsequently signed on as one of 29 members who graduated from the union’s 18th Leadership Academy class in 2014. During the rigorous course, he learned about dispute resolution and negotiation techniques, strategic planning, financial issues, workers’ compensation, and other topics. And all that came in handy in his other leadership role – as president of the two-building Forest Park Co-op Section 3 in Woodhaven, Queens.
“You must look at the facts and make determinations based on the house rules and our documents of incorporation,” says Marks, 51, who has a wife and son. “Strictly applying the evidence in front of us and determining how to act – that was certainly something that was honed in my experience as a union rep.”
“He’s a very serious person,” observes Mark Hankin, a partner in the law firm of Hankin & Mazel, the attorney for the building. “He researches everything. He isn’t one of those guys who says, ‘Whatever the lawyer says, goes.’” On a recent project, for instance, a question came up about a performance bond. “I told him all the pluses and minuses, and that I was all for it,” Hankin recalls. “He said, ‘OK, let me check it out.’ And he went online and got the whole story, so when he met with the board, he knew all about it. He confirms everything. That’s what a board president should do.”
Raised in Forest Hills and educated at SUNY Buffalo, Marks started working for the postal service because he wanted a complete change of pace. “I worked on Wall Street for two years as a stockbroker, but I felt that the pressures put on brokers to generate income conflicted with my integrity,” he says. “So I sought out a reliable job with a pension.” He has been president at the roughly 190-unit co-op for almost six years.
Before he ran for the board, a decision had been made to “install cell phone towers for very little money,” he says, referring to an issue covered by local media in September 2010. J.C. Hamilton, a board member at the time, told The Queens Chronicle that the five-year contract with Clearwire Communications, paying $25,000 a year, had been needed for budgetary reasons. The deal included options for four additional five-year terms with 12 percent increases each time. “We did this in the best interest of people with a fixed income, which is about 35 percent of the residents, so we could keep their costs down,” Hamilton was quoted as saying. He pointed out that a similar cell tower already was installed in another section of the co-op.
Dozens of residents, including Marks, upset that the board had approved installing cell-phone antennas on the roof of one building without shareholder input, organized to try to stop the plan. “The reason the current board was elected was that we had formed an anti-cell-tower committee,” recalls Marks. “We fought hard, raised money, and hired an attorney. That was one of the first times we had a quorum at the annual meeting. I received the highest number of votes.” After the election of the new board, the deal fell through.
“He’s very direct,” says Hankin, recalling an emergency repair job that was needed for the support beams in the garage. “There were some people complaining about disclosure and how much information he provided, and his answer to them was, ‘I put it in the newsletter, I had meetings – I don’t think there’s anything else this board could have done to give you a clearer picture of what was done.’ If anyone said, ‘We should have waited,’ he’d say, ‘No. Two professionals told us not to wait. We had to act. I am doing this to protect you and your families.’ That’s the way he is.”