New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Guiding Spirit

You’re managing a 300-unit co-op in Queens where the board has had trouble making decisions. Can you tell us about it?

We interviewed for this property in 2015 with the entire board, which seemed like a terrific group of people who appeared to be happy with everything that was going on. I asked them why they were looking for new management and if there were any issues. For the next 20 minutes, they spewed out 15 to 30 projects, large and small – and some of them going back 30 years – that hadn’t been done. Their management company was a very reputable firm, but it seemed as if the manager assigned to them couldn’t give them the guidance they needed to help them make those important decisions.

How did you tackle the problem?

Well, we started attacking the larger projects. They had a cracked sewer line that ran about 600 feet from the back of the property all the way out to the main street to the sewer system. They had a floor sinking in one of the buildings. They had water intrusion issues, roof issues, heating issues, and drainage issues. The doors on the building were original, which meant they were more than 60 years old.

The scope of it must have been overwhelming.

I think it was for them, in the way that it had been handled previously. As a director of management, I want to make sure we always have the right person on every property. Some buildings are easier to manage than others, but it was clear that this one would require us to have our hands all over it for the next couple of years in order to help the board address what needed to be done.

Was money an issue?

No, they had the money. They had refinanced a couple years back and had about $2 million set aside for capital projects but had never started any of them. Essentially, I think there was a fear of failure, of making the wrong decision. I looked at the proposals they had gotten previously, which were all over the place. There were no specifications that had been put together. On one of them, which was for a flooding problem, I saw the name of an engineer I knew, so I wanted to utilize what he had already done and move forward.

How did you do that?

The board had never met him, so I brought him to a meeting and had him explain how and why he came up with his plans. He showed them the corrective mea-sures that needed to be done, which included tying the gutter and leader system into a single drainage system. He wanted to install more dry wells – there was only one, but we needed six – to stop the flooding. Every time it poured, they’d have four inches of water in the courtyard, and people would have to wade through it to get to their front doors.

So it sounds as if the key here is education and leadership.

Yes. Not every board needs it, but this particular one did. The year after we came on, one of the board members did not seek re-election and someone was appointed who had a more technical background, which helped in moving every-thing forward. Now we bring in every vendor to meet the board. If they’re going to be doing a $150,000 job, I need them to spend an hour with the board, walk the members through the project, and explain how it’s going to affect owners. Meeting face-to-face has worked on every project so far.

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