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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



The Board That Never Cuts Corners

Jim Taylor, Board Member, Windsor Tower
Resident since: 1992
Joined Board: 2006

Jim Taylor is an architect, and after moving from a Yorkville studio into a co-op apartment in Tudor City’s Windsor Tower in 1992, he didn’t give much thought to his new living arrangement. He admits it straight-up: “I didn’t know anything about co-ops.”

Then some of Windsor Tower’s seven board members started urging Taylor to consider serving with them. The personalities and philosophy of the board were in flux. “The old boards put off what they could put off,” Taylor says. “The washing machines, for example, were constantly breaking down. The board members said they needed an architect who could help advise them. Eventually I gave in – and I found I love having input and helping improve the building.”

Since Taylor joined the board in 2006, some impressive improvements have come to the 1920s-vintage Windsor Tower, a 26-story, 800-unit building, one of twelve that make up the bucolic oasis of Tudor City near the East River in midtown Manhattan. At the moment, the board is supervising a three-year capital project to repair the facade and – far more interesting – replicate or repair the terra-cotta details that make these landmarked, neo-Gothic buildings some of the most arresting in the city. Rather than pinch pennies, the Windsor Tower board decided to replace all 32 terra-cotta spires and several corner pinnacles with pre-cast concrete replicas. Three terra-cotta gargoyles will also be replaced. The job could have come in under the $3.6 million price tag, but that’s not how this board works.

“We see the importance of getting quality,” as Taylor puts it. “And it was much more efficient, cost-wise, to do all the spires at once.” Eric Vonderhyde, a principal at Bertolini Architectural Works, has worked with the board for years. “This is a very progressive board,” Vonderhyde says. “If something is right for the building, they never say no.” This thinking is reflected not only in the current work on the building’s decorative flourishes, but in the high-end Wascomat washers and ADC dryers the board purchased during an upgrade to the laundry room. All six elevators have been replaced, the hallways have been redone, the gym has been expanded and the equipment upgraded, and hundreds of original steel casement windows have been replaced with state-of-the art aluminum frames. Through it all, Taylor says the board was guided by the principle that trying to do things on the cheap eventually winds up being expensive.

Just as he is something of an accidental board member, the soft-spoken Taylor, 55, is something of an accidental New Yorker. He grew up in suburban Boston and studied architecture at Syracuse University, where he met Lisa Harte, a Westchester County native who was studying to become an opera singer. After graduation, Taylor got two job offers – one in Boston, the other in New York. Since Harte wanted to head home, Taylor decided to take the second job offer. “I knew if I didn’t take the leap then, I probably never would,” he says with a chuckle. And so a new New Yorker was born. The couple married in 1993, and Harte now works as a school psychologist. Their daughter, Sarah, is in college in Florida.

Since his arrival in the city, Taylor has worked for several architecture and design firms, usually on high-dollar jobs such as one of Madonna’s apartments, a house for the founder of Starbucks in Seattle, and a palace in Kuwait. “What I loved was that you did whatever you wanted – the budgets were unlimited,” Taylor says. “Every detail was designed.”

In 2012, he struck out on his own and now runs a one-man shop out of the couple’s apartment, which is two one-bedrooms that they combined. Taylor has designed renovations and combinations for about a dozen of his fellow Windsor Tower shareholders, and most of his work these days is for people who are gut-renovating apartments in the city. Business is brisk.

“Being a board member is kind of a thankless task,” he admits, “and you hear a lot of complaints. But some people really appreciate our work, and they do let you know. When they do, it makes you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.” n

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