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Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

It’s Miller Time

John Miller, Board President
465 West End Ave.

Resident since: 1986
Board member: 30 years
Hometown: Great Neck, Long Island

uYou’d think that the decision was a no-brainer. Given a choice between having a doorman or a porter, you’d naturally choose the doorman, right? Class, elegance, luxury – the whole nine yards. But the 41-unit co-op at 465 West End Avenue at 82nd Street has opted for the porter.

“We’ve had two referendum votes to change from 24-hour elevator man to a 24-hour doorman, which would cost us nothing. The majority prefer the porter as elevator man,” says John Miller, the board president. “With a 24-hour elevator operator, the guy takes you up and he waits until you get into your apartment. A lot of people feel safer that way.”

It makes sense – and that’s the sort of no-nonsense approach that seems to be typical of Miller, 70, who has served on the board of this 12-story co-op for 30 years, 28 as president. “Over the past 30 years, the agenda has been to put money back into the building to try to keep it competitive with the rest of the buildings in the neighborhood,” Miller says. With money from flip taxes, “we have improved boilers and roofs and also the building aesthetically. In the 1990s, we were the first building in the neighborhood to add a gym. We’ve redone the hallways and the lobby. It’s first class.”

The property, built as a rental in 1910 and converted to a co-op in 1982, is currently managed by Orsid Realty. Miller has lived there since 1986, when he moved from the East Side with his wife and two children. “I couldn’t afford to buy 2,600 square feet on Park Avenue,” he says. “So we went west.”

Miller was born in Brooklyn. His family moved to Great Neck, Long Island, when he was three, and he lived there until he graduated from Long Island University. For the next 30 years, he worked with his older brother in the family business, Young Stuff Apparel, which was started by their grandparents in 1905.

“The apparel business has gone, for most people, from the tri-state area to Central America or Mexico, to Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and those countries,” he observes. “I did some work in Taiwan, South Korea, and China. Everybody did. We chased the cheap labor.”

In 2005, the brothers sold the company to a Chinese firm – but the younger Miller had already moved on, starting a new apparel operation in 2000 called Aries Worldwide Partners. (His daughter Erin, a former TV producer, started working with him in 2015. His son Zach, now in the app business, produced the feature film The Messenger, in 2009, which received two Academy Award and two Golden Globe nominations, and won over a dozen other awards.)

Miller found that his experience in the apparel business helped him in running the co-op board. “My whole life I’ve been negotiating for goods and services,” he says. “It helps, in terms of sitting down with contractors and, in a sense, trying to get the best prices for whatever work we have to do.

“I got on the board to try to make changes,” he continues. “I saw what the building desperately needed. Gradually, I was able to effect my agenda, which was to improve this building. It’s not like we were sitting with $20 million and I could say, ‘Well, this year we’ll do this. This year we’ll do that.’”

He began by taking small steps, “like doing the plantings in the tree pits. There was nothing in there. Or buying some urns, putting them on the stanchions right in front of the building, and filling them with flowers. These are little things, but gradually they make a difference.”

He adds: “You have to be political, to some degree, to be able to get along with the six other members who may not share your opinion. You have to be aggressive, to a certain extent, but at the same time it’s like running any kind of a company. You have to be diplomatic. I’d rather lead by example than be a Machiavellian type of leader. I think that belief has served me well.”

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