Mark Truisi came from his native Buffalo to New York City to study architecture at Pratt Institute, and he sees the world with a trained and discerning eye. When he looked at the pre-war Rockville Tudor co-op in the Long Island town of Rockville Centre, he saw a four-story brick building with intriguing flourishes, lovely bones – and a need for some serious work. He wasn’t seeing the half of it.
“My broker begged me not to move in here,” Truisi, 54, recalls with a laugh. “He said it was run down, the maintenance was high, there was no parking. It needed a lot of repairs, and that scared people. And they didn’t have proper amenities.”
Truisi had moved from Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Rockville Centre in 2001, and the experience of coaching his son’s youth soccer team gave him an appreciation for the town’s cohesive sense of community. People who grew up there and moved away often wound up coming back home. Truisi bought and sold two homes before the Rockville Tudor caught his eye. Undaunted by his broker’s warnings, Truisi bought and gut-renovated a two-bedroom apartment in the co-op in 2015 – he had recently been through a divorce – and soon started learning the disconcerting truth. The five-member co-op board had been entrenched for a dozen years, and there had not been a proper election in at least eight years. The board and shareholders were alienated.
Truisi soon got appointed to the board when a member retired, and one of the first things he did was to invite a dozen brokers in to have candid conversations with the board about the building’s reputation and market position. “The board was convinced that this was a luxury building that people were dying to get into,” Truisi says. The brokers burst that bubble. They advised the board to build a roof deck, institute a pet-friendly policy, and do something about the fitness center that was little more than a glorified underground storage space. It was, Truisi says, “a major wake-up call.”
Truisi realized the board needed fresh blood, and so he persuaded three like-minded shareholders to run for the board with him, and after a vigorous get-out-the-vote campaign, he and two of his allies were elected in 2017. (The sponsor holds one of the five seats.) They promptly appointed their third ally as nonvoting treasurer. It was time for the games to begin.
“We let people know they had a voice,” Truisi says, “and that the board was approachable.” To foster shareholder involvement, the board appointed committees to handle landscaping, party planning, decorating. A new accountant was hired. The fitness center was fully renovated. Planning began for installing a deck and solar panels on the roof. Ongoing repairs of leaks were aggressively pursued – a necessity in every 90-year-old brick building.
The new board had several things working in its favor. There was a $1.5 million reserve fund. Scott McDermott has been the super for 32 years, and he knows the building’s quirks intimately. And Paul Yaworski of Alexander Wolf & Company has been managing the building competently for 13 years. “The day-to-day running of the building was fine,” Truisi says. “The problem was with big projects. The board wasn’t making decisions.”
Those days are past. Upcoming big projects include installing a video intercom system, replacing all five exterior doors with handsome, Tudor-revival mahogany doors, and switching from keys to electronic fobs. An engineer has been hired to catalog any noncompliance with local and state building codes. “We’re all pulling oars in the same direction,” Truisi says. “We’re on a roll.”
As he tours the property, pausing frequently to chat with workers and fellow shareholders, Truisi exudes the air of a man on a mission, a mission he loves. He describes it this way: “It’s three things: develop the potential of the building and raise property values, build community, and recruit my successor. People want to come home and feel welcome and comfortable. We want to make this place a home – and not just inside the apartments, in the common areas too. We want it to be warm and welcoming.”