Habitat: How did your two most recent projects – a gym and a media room – come about? And what exactly is a media room?
Gershon: It’s a theater with eight very comfortable reclining seats and a 127-inch screen with Dolby Digital sound. We were going to put in a gym, but I saw that a number of buildings in the city had open-air film events where they would show films on the roof and project them on a brick wall. I said, “Why don’t we try something like that, but a little different?” We decided to split the 15- by 30-foot [communal] space in half, with the theater in the rear and a gym with state-of-the-art gym equipment in the other half. Most of the people who use the gym use it in the morning, and the theater is used in the evening. I’m a cinephile movie lunatic, so I provide the films, and we have a screening schedule – we do three showings a week. People can also bring their own DVDs. We also installed Fios cable, so people can watch sporting events on TV. And it’s free.
Habitat: This must be attractive to potential buyers. Is curb appeal a big issue for you?
Gershon: Yes. Realtors come here and one of the first things they look at is the media room and the gym. We’re fortunate because we have on the board an architect who has helped us considerably. We have a roof that was not used for anything, and he made a beautiful roof deck out of it. And you know, this is a 20-story building and we have unobstructed views of the entire area. It’s really fantastic in terms of how beautiful it is up there. And he also created a street-level garden in our rear area, which had been just a weed dump.
Habitat: How do you go about deciding on each project? Your manager, Steve Greenbaum, of MGRE, told me that you actually poll the residents?
Gershon: Yes, we do poll them. We want to be in touch. The vice president, Tim Taylor, is very media-savvy, and he has some background in this, and once a year we do a survey.
I also chair the committee that does all the interviews with new shareholders. One of the first things I always ask is, “How did you hear about us? And what do you like about the building?” They bring up the amenities.
Habitat: In choosing amenities, how important is input from the residents?
Gershon: We constantly are looking to see what people are interested in and what their concerns are. So we’re very into that and making sure that there’s a voice for the people. We also try to anticipate things, so I put together a five-year plan. We’re probably going to be refinancing our mortgage to bring in some additional cash, and fortunately we’re in fairly good shape.
Habitat: What advice do you offer to other boards that are thinking of adding amenities?
Gershon: If you have unused spaces, see if you can create an environment where you can use these spaces in a creative way. Get ideas from everyone. My parents were very outgoing and friendly, and they taught me to share ideas with others, to engage other people in conversation and to try and live in the world. I have always tried to get people involved because that’s what a cooperative is – that’s what separates us from other kinds of buildings. We want to get people involved.