Vic Tolentino, Board President
Jackson Heights, Queens
Resident since: 2002
Board member: 2 years
Vic Tolentino has a plan. Call it “The Expert Board Initiative” or “The Professional Board Approach.” Whatever you label it, his idea for the perfect board has taken root at his 96-unit landmarked cooperative in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“We have a variety of people with complementary skills represented on the board,” Tolentino says. “Our treasurer has an MBA. Her skills in financial forecasting and projection, and her role in developing our capital improvement plan, have been invaluable. The director overseeing our security upgrade is a security analyst by profession, so he brings his knowledge and experience to that project. In the last year, our board secretary, who’s a human resources executive for an international non-profit organization, has implemented standard work flows for our staff and has created a system to track and evaluate employee performance.”
Tolentino implemented the plan last year when he enlisted shareholders with specific areas of expertise to run for the board. “He recruited me,” recalls Katie Pagenkopf, the co-op’s treasurer, who was elected in May 2016. “He’s an expert listener. He’s very good at understanding people’s strengths and weaknesses, and then feeling them out as to whether they want to help out in board or building activities on an ad hoc basis. He identified one of the gals in our building as a professional contract negotiator, and she’s willing to help us out, which is amazing.”
The board has currently initiated a series of big jobs in the 1920s-era property: restoring the lobby, replacing the elevators, installing a new security system, completing a facade renovation, and possibly adding a roof deck to the building. His “recruit the experts” approach led him to a shareholder who is also an architect. “He’s volunteering to help come up with the design concept for the lobby,” says Tolentino. “For us, it’s a win-win, because he is familiar with the space, and he understands its quirks.”
Tolentino was trained as a lawyer and a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He now juggles two jobs: a clinical practice, where he treats university students who have mental health conditions; and a risk-management consultancy for a large health-care network, where he advises hospital administrators and physicians about various aspects of health-care delivery.
The latter job dovetails nicely with Tolentino’s role as board president. “In my job as a risk-management consultant,” he says, “I spend part of my time focused on finding kinks in the system and preventing those kinks from becoming problems for patients – or evolving into a financial liability for the hospital. These skills translate well to leading a co-op because the same focus on identifying risks to the community and ensuring that we are able to overcome those challenges is essential to maintaining the well-being of the cooperative.”
Married, with no children, Tolentino bought into the co-op in 2002 but left New York temporarily in 2005, returning in 2012. He joined the board two years ago and moved up to the presidency last year.
He has priorities for the property tied to the changing makeup of Jackson Heights. When he arrived in 2002, the neighborhood was almost exclusively working class, but now, with younger people looking to buy apartments, Tolentino says no board “can afford to sit on its hands. The building must enhance its curb appeal and consider new amenities to stay competitive and grow its investment value.”
If anyone can make the co-op competitive, it’s Tolentino. “He’s very resourceful, very thoughtful,” says Pagenkopf. “He’s as nice as the day is long – an amazing human being. But I don’t think he sleeps.”