ANN WEINER Board Member, The Amherst, Briarwod, Queens
RESIDENT SINCE: 1980s
BOARD MEMBER: 13 years
DAY JOB : Retired legal secretary
Ann Weiner is a New York native, born in Manhattan and raised in White Plains. After studying piano at Juilliard, she lived in Brooklyn before settling into a 252-unit, three-building co-op in Briarwood, Queens, in the 1980s. She gave private piano lessons for several years – until she realized she could make better money working as a legal secretary, which she did for 17 years until her recent retirement. She was elected to the co-op’s seven-member board in 2004 and still serves on the board today. She loves to play Chopin, especially his lively scherzos, on the ebony baby-grand piano in her living room.
Habitat: What was the reason you joined the board in the first place?
Weiner: Disgust. This woman had been on the board something like 14 years. Most of the time she was president, and there were things going on that I knew weren’t right.She put four of the sponsors on the board, [while] they’re only supposed to have two. But with four,she could always get reelected.[laughs]She also raised maintenance twice, at 15 percent per year. She wanted to do another 15 percent, and that was the end for me.You just can’t do that. This other woman got on the board with me and we told her, “No, you can’t do another 15 percent.” For some reason,she listened to us.
Habitat: So eventually you got control of the board?
Weiner: Yeah, I wrote an open letter to the shareholders. The buildings were not clean. We were upset about that.We formed all these committees to check over the buildings and get back to each other. It was a pain in the neck.
Habitat: Once you got control of the board, what changes did you make?
Weiner: We got a new super, a new management company, and a new lawyer,Abbey Goldstein. The new management, Aras Properties, turned the property around, along with the new super and the new porters.You wouldn’t even recognize the building from the way it was before. We got it painted, and we got the landscaping done It’s really beautiful now.
Habitat: If you were going to give advice to somebody living in a co-op where they felt that things were not quite right, what would you tell them to do?
Weiner: Read the bylaws. Know how things are supposed to be going.That’s how I found out the sponsor was only supposed to have two seats instead of four. Hiring the right professionals is also very, very important. If you don’t have the right people, they’re not looking out for your money. They’re not looking out for the people who work here, or the building, or the landscaping. It just makes a huge difference. I think the first year, the management company saved us $100,000 by switching our insurance company and by switching from frontage billing to metered billing for our water. It was just fabulous.
Habitat: Any parting words of advice for other co-op or condo boards?
Weiner: Be aware of your finances and what’s going on. If money is being taken out and you don’t know why and management doesn’t explain it to you, there’s something wrong. You’ve got to be very aware. That’s the key right there, I think.