Martin Mirkin, Board President
370 East 76th Street
Resident since: 1988
Board member: 37 years
Hometown: New York City
Habitat: What attracted to you to the building?
Mirkin: The amenities. At that time, I had a young child, and the building has a swimming pool on the roof. The location on First Avenue was good for me, as well, because I would take a car down to work.
Habitat: Tell me about your early years.
Mirkin: I grew up in Washington Heights and went to Columbia Grammar. Initially, I went into the apparel business. I worked for Burlington Industries, which was a big conglomerate, and in my early thirties, I started my own business.
Habitat: How did you get involved with the co-op’s board?
Mirkin: Being in my own business, I could devote the time to it. So when they asked me to join, I signed up. I enjoy dealing with the people coming into the building.
Habitat: Has the role of a president been different from what you expected?
Mirkin: No, not at all. The main thing that I had to learn was how to deal with many types of individuals of all ages who live in the building. There’s such a big diversification in here that, with all the issues that come up, there’s always differences between the older people, the younger people, and those that have lived here for a period of time.
Habitat: How do you balance that? How do you keep the peace?
Mirkin: In many cases, you don’t. But 90 percent of the time, I’m able to keep the peace by taking the time out to give the courtesy of an explanation. For instance, right now we’re trying to get 75 percent of the building to amend our proprietary lease to make the building “no-smoking.” We have to explain to people that, economically, it’s beneficial because most new young people coming in prefer to be in a smoke-free environment. We also have to explain that we did get complaints from other people while living in the building that the smoking was annoying them. They were concerned about secondhand smoke, and the law says that you have to do something. So we are doing something.
Habitat: What are some leadership lessons?
Mirkin: I learned to be discreet and not to dictate, but talk to people in an authoritative way. I also was educated in everything from plumbing to lighting to mechanicals. I became involved in real estate; I bought a couple of apartments as an investment. Then I went in with other partners, and I bought a building recently in Freeport, Long Island. It’s got 24 apartments.
Habitat: What did you learn in the apparel business that you applied to your board duties?
Mirkin: Because I was in the buying and selling in the apparel business, I knew how to negotiate with the contractors that came into the building, from elevator contractors to plumbing contractors to electrical contractors. There are always challenges – in finding people to do the correct and proper jobs, whether it applied to Local Law 11 projects, or whether it applied to simple plumbing projects, or to hiring people to run the pool. I got involved pretty much in every aspect of that.
Habitat: What is the toughest challenge you’ve had in the time you’ve been there?
Mirkin: We had a lobby renovation 16 years ago, and we are in the process of doing a new lobby renovation as we speak. We did the hallways. We put in a new air-conditioning system, a cogeneration system, a new boiler, and refurbished the swimming pool. All within the last 10 years, by refinancing.
Habitat: How do you juggle the time between your job and the board?
Mirkin: I more or less retired about four years ago. I keep the [apparel] office open because I have a handful of my old accounts that I’m very friendly with. They give me some business, but I’m basically semi-retired. I’m 77 – I still play basketball. Not well – but I still make an attempt to throw the ball up to the rim.