The Strivers Gardens Condominium was one of the first luxury condos in Harlem, according to Martin Robertson, the facilities manager. “We have two towers – we take up the entire city block,” he says of the 170-unit complex. Maintaining a large community can present challenges, but Robertson has a unique set of skills: before becoming a facilities manager, he spent several years in Africa with the nonprofit Roots Revisited.
“Working in Tanzania, in the village of Mbeya, the project was to build libraries,” he says. “Part of getting the job done was coordinating with the villagers and making sure that they had the necessary supplies and tools to make the bricks, a skill that I use even now as I help and monitor the facade project here.”
Additionally, “we have a total of 10 boilers. One of the things that I was able to do [was] convince the board to cancel their maintenance contract… . I was able to look at it and say we’re spending X amount of dollars just for them to come in and do this routine cleaning. I have a skill set that allows me to do what they’re doing and train someone else [to do it, too].”
His philosophy? “Having a vision and looking for areas to save is very acutely a part of my job and my mission here as facilities manager.”
“[During a maintenance increase discussion,] Board Member No. 1 points out that a large portion of the budget is the mortgage payment. Board Member No. 2 replies: ‘So we don’t pay the mortgage, let the bank sue us and we then negotiate a better deal; that’s what Trump would do.’ The treasurer and I spent the next hour explaining to the board why this would not work.”
“I’m against smoking bans. Whatever I do behind closed doors is none of your f---ing business! Go outside: you’re breathing car exhaust, truck exhaust, bus exhaust, boiler exhaust. Come on! It’s not like you’re drinking poisoned water.”
“The Human Rights Commission (HRC) approached a building I represent and said a disabled shareholder had complained and now they were requiring the co-op to add an access ramp to the front of the building and allowing the shareholder to have a therapy dog. I talked to the shareholder, and he said he never complained to the HRC about a ramp or the lack of a dog – he had just called for information on those issues.”
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