New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Waisman’s World

Bob Waisman, Board Treasurer/VP & Building Manager
368 West 23rd St.
Resident since:  1981
Manager: 34 years
Hometown: Bronx, New York

Bob Waisman is always making the rounds. “Every day, I check the restaurant,” he says. “I check the basement. I check the boilers. I check the gas lines. I check everything within the building.” Waisman, the longtime manager at the five-story, eight-unit brownstone co-op at 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue, doesn’t make the rounds for kicks. “We had an issue with the gas,” he explains. One day at 3 in the morning, someone sitting in the cooperative’s ground-floor restaurant smelled gas.

Con Ed shut off the gas – and it remained off for the next 19 months. “To cook,” Waisman says, “we had hot plates in the apartments, and we got one free meal a day at the restaurant.” After months of arguing over a technicality, Waisman says he called Con Ed and brokered a deal.
That’s what Bob Waisman does, in his capacity as paid managing agent and board treasurer/vice president at his Chelsea building, a former Single Room Occupancy hotel that was converted to a co-op in 1979. Although such dual roles are rare – and not generally recommended by attorneys because of potential conflicts of interest – Waisman says it’s an arrangement born of necessity.

“Our building suffers from renter’s mentality,” he says. “They come into the building. They have their space. They pay their maintenance, and that’s all they do. It’s been that way since the beginning.” When he bought his apartment in 1981, he recalls, “everyone was new. No one knew what co-ops were all about. We decided that we would try and give out different chores and committees to various people in the building.”

After about six months, however, he realized that “because of their schedules, nobody was doing what they were supposed to do.” At a board meeting, he offered to manage the building – for a fee. Although he knew next to nothing about management, he had run businesses in the past and felt he could handle the small building. His fellow shareholders voted to make him the manager.

Waisman, who at 75 looks more like a 55-year-old, has always been practical. He grew up in the Bronx and chose to attend DeWitt Clinton High School rather than the more tony Stuyvesant. “I felt that for me to get to college, I needed good grades in high school,” he says,”and I decided that I probably could excel at DeWitt Clinton.” He did, receiving a scholarship to City College.

At 24, he married his first wife and moved to New Jersey, where he worked in sales and service at the Burroughs Corporation. When the company relocated, he went to work at an executive search firm. After nearly 30 years, he left to help manage a database consulting firm. When that company was sold at the end of 2003, Waisman made a tidy profit on the deal and, at 62, retired.

Sort of.

“I’ve been managing the co-op since 1983,” Waisman says. It’s kept him busy, dealing with typical problems like elevator repair, maintaining the building, balancing the budget and, always, making the rounds.

Waisman has two grown sons by his first marriage. Scott, 47, works at L.L. Bean in Maine, and Andrew, 48, manages an automotive repair shop in Texas. Waisman calls his second wife, Phyllis – whom he met at a wine and cheese party in the 1970s and married in 1981 – his “soul mate.”

His advice for other board members? “Be informed,” he replies. “And keep the shareholders informed, especially if you’re going to change the bylaws, the house rules, or making any major repairs. And keep them informed of new city regulations, which are constantly changing. You have to keep up with the issues.”

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