In 1992, as the former Yugoslavia was breaking apart, Semir Nikovic and his family left their home in what is now Montenegro. They fled through the mountains to Albania, then to Italy, eventually making their way to safety in the United States. Since then, life has settled down for Nikovic, who is now the resident manager at the Vermeer, a 354-unit co-op at 77 Seventh Avenue.
No stranger to hard work, Nikovic, a former hotel handyman, has taken on several projects at the Vermeer that have paid dividends, not only in money saved but in goodwill generated. Take, for example, the complaints about salting the sidewalks. While most apartment-dwellers would be happy that someone was taking care of their safety by melting the ice, some residents were complaining about the effect the salt was having on their dogs’ paws. “So I ordered pet-friendly safe salt, and it works,” says Nikovic. “At the same time, I found a brush machine that uses less salt because the machine does the work. You’re saving the sidewalk, you’re saving the salt, and you’re saving the dogs – all three at the same time.”
Problem-solving seems to come naturally to Nikovic. When he began working at the Vermeer, his first project was to replace the inefficient lights in the lobby. “They were old lights,” says Nikovic. “I started going through the building, putting in energy-saving light bulbs – they last longer, and they don’t blow out that fast compared to the regular light bulbs.” The building’s electricity bill was cut by about $10,000 a month.
Nikovic is now urging the building to go green in other ways. Successfully switching to greener products, such as sidewalk salt and floor cleaner, saves the building about $80,000 a year. “We order green products – they’re cheaper and more efficient,” he says, “and I don’t need to use all these chemicals. The greener you are, you know, the better air we breathe. So why not?”