Iris Newsum, Board President
East Elmhurst, Queeens
Resident since: 1982
Board member: 15 years
Hometown: The Bronx
Iris Newsum has been a board member since 2002 and president since 2008 at the five-building, 330-unit Northbridge Co-op, Section 1 in East Elmhurst, Queens. She has lived at the 67-year-old property for 35 years. She earned an MBA at Dowling College and a master’s in systems engineering at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, now part of New York University.
Habitat: Tell me about your early years.
Newsum: I was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx. But Manhattan got too crowded for me and too loud. I wanted to go into an area where there was a little bit more quiet, and more family kind of unity. I found it here in Queens.
Habitat: What do you do in your spare time?
Newsum: I work a lot in the community within my church. I’m a bereavement minister, so I do some bereavement work as well.
Habitat: What is your job?
Newsum: I’ve been a manager for the City of New York for over 30 years. I’m now retired. My responsibilities were varied. They went from acting as a business operations manager to serving as a financial manager and as a telecommunications manager.
Habitat: Did that background help you when you got on the board?
Newsum: Yeah, my business background helped me to better understand financial statements and contractual agreements.
Habitat: Why did you join the board?
Newsum: The president suggested it. I had one apartment, and I was purchasing a second apartment and combining them. The president said, “You have a large investment, and it would be a good for you to join.” So I did.
Habitat: What was the most challenging thing you found when you got on the board?
Newsum: The most challenging thing was that it was self-managed. That was a complete disaster. The president and the treasurer were managing it. From a financial standpoint, they weren’t doing a good job. The board members were basically given reports of how things were going, but they had no real involvement. When the president left and we reviewed the operation, we came to the conclusion that it could no longer be self-managed. The property was much too large, and we needed a reputable management company. I had heard about Delkap, so I reached out to them. From that point on, financially, we did a turnaround. We went from the red to the black. We began to be able to do many of the upgrades and repairs to the building that were, some of them, overdue. We replaced our boilers, fixed our roofs. We actually upgraded our elevators. From the point that Delkap came in, it was all very positive, and it has been up until today.
Habitat: What is the biggest problem you have?
Newsum: The mandates that we get from the City of New York, specifically concerning Local Law 11. It’s an expense for many co-ops, particularly out here in Queens. I understand the value of Local Law 11, but when you start looking at some of the co-ops in the outer boroughs – and I’m now going to talk about our community here – we’re all experiencing the financial stress of Local Law 11. Many of our shareholders are seniors. They don’t have the kind of income to do a capital assessment of $500 a month. A lot of times, we find ourselves having to refinance our mortgage. Up to now, it’s been OK, but it concerns me for the long run. I don’t think that it’s financially sustainable.
The city is unwilling to look at the program and maybe make some adjustments. For example, they require us to do this every five years. We have to start in the fourth year so that we can have all the filing done and submitted and be ready to start in the fifth year. It gives us little time in between [cycles]. It’s going to crush us. At some point, we’re going to have a lot of seniors who are going to suffer, because how much can you continue to refinance and take out of the equity in your property before they say, “Well, you know, you’ve reached your max”? Then what? Then we have to go to our seniors? It’s going to be really hard. That is very frustrating and of great concern to me.