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Clever Like a Fox

David Fox, Board President
Linden Towers Co-op No. 1

RESIDENT SINCE: 1976

BOARD MEMBER:32 years

HOMETOWN:Yardley, PA

 

David Fox spent 40 years working as a laboratory technologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx – and 32 years
working in another sort of research lab: the board of Linden Towers Cooperative Number 1, two co-op buildings in Flushing, Queens, with a total of 134 units. 

“My background in science is actually helpful on the board,” Fox says, “because being in the lab is very exacting work, and you can’t make mistakes. You have to have an attention to detail.” A lab technologist, he explains, works under a doctor to perform tests. Fox is especially proud of a landmark 1976 discovery his lab made under the leadership of Dr. Harold M. Nitowsky: a test that could indicate Down syndrome in fetuses. 

“AFP [Alpha Fetoprotein] testing was routinely done at the time,” Fox explains. “My boss discovered that if the AFP level is unusually low, it’s often a sign of Down syndrome. Generally, women over 36 would have amniocentesis,” also called an amniotic fluid test, which is a medical procedure that draws amniotic fluid from the uterus for testing. But, he notes, “there’s some risk in amniocentesis for younger women.” The blood test that Nitowsky and his team developed “essentially has no risk, and it’s become a routine thing.” Fox, 71, a native of Yardley, Pennsylvania, has been interested in science since his time at Penn State university, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in the 1960s. He moved to the Bronx in 1968, but eight years later, with the neighborhood deteriorating, he moved to Linden Towers. “It’s a very short trip over the Whitestone Bridge to where I worked,” he says, “so that was really the most convenient place outside of the Bronx to get to the Bronx.”

Linden Towers, built in the 1950s, had become a bit shabby by the time Fox arrived. “The people all tended to be 20 years older than me,” he says, “and a lot of them didn’t want to spend money on anything that wasn’t essential.” 

That changed. Ten years ago, the board had the parapets of both buildings repaired and did extensive facade repairs, taking out a $3.5 million mortgage to pay for it. “We just this spring got a new 20-year mortgage for $2.5 million – we paid down the original mortgage,” Fox says. “The total annual cost was slightly less than what we were paying before, because the interest rates have dropped so much from 10 years ago.” 

Peter Lehr, the director of management at Kaled Management, the building’s longtime manager, says that Fox is a hands-on leader who gets involved in the detail work. “He’s a great guy,” observes Lehr. 

Fox’s interests are not limited to co-op business, however. In 1991, he revealed a particular – and unusual – passion, one that was unlikely to be found in most laboratory technologists: the pipe organ.

The pipe organ? “Yes,” he says with the enthusiasm of a longtime fan. Fox examined historical sources and the work of various researchers and wrote A Guide to North American Organ Builders, a book that collects basic information on 6,000 organ builders and firms in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, showing dates, company affiliations, family relationships, and other organ data. Arranged as a biographical dictionary, it includes sources of the information presented, a geographical index of firms, a subject index, and patents in organ building. 

Published by the Organ Historical Society as a 256-page book, the original version is out-of-print. But the work was updated and enlarged by Fox in 1997 and now contains 314 pages and can be bought as a PDF from the society. He wrote three other books on the subject, and one critic observed: “Without Fox’s massive undertaking, [the] listing [of pipe organ information] would either be much smaller and far less comprehensive, or might not exist at all.” 

Although he says he is retired from writing about organs, Fox recalls with a laugh meeting someone who looked through the 6,000 listings in his groundbreaking book. 

“You can’t possibly be a musician,” she said. 

“No, I’m not. Why do you say that?” 

“No musician would have the patience to do such a tedious task.”

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Take 4

four of David Fox’s favorite things:

  • The Metropolitan Museum.“I’m a member and go there regularly. It’s my favorite museum. I love the Greek and Roman exhibits.”
  • Japan. “I was able to visit 25 years ago. It was very nice, but extremely expensive. I enjoyed it very much. That was probably the happiest time of my life.”
  • Japanese TV. “I watch NHK in English. It’s the Japanese PBS. It has maybe 10 or 30 minutes of news, and then some other program for the remainder of the hour. A lot of them are cultural things. There are no commercials. Some of the nature programs are absolutely gorgeous, the photography, and whatnot. It’s better than most American stations.”
  • Pipe organ music. “I love going to evening concerts in Philadelphia, where they can play it as loud as they like.”

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