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As a co-op board novice, Amy Basile had to learn fast.
Mathematics runs in Amy Basile’s family. She grew up in the Boston suburb of Waltham, Mass., where her father was an accountant and her mother was a homemaker. After studying math at Wellesley College, Basile, now 45, made her way to New York, where she works for the city’s Department of Education. She is married with two young children. Less than a year ago, Basile became the newest member of the board in her 175-unit Greenwich Village co-op.
Habitat: What brought you to New York?
Basile: I have an Italian grandmother who was an immigrant, and I always saw things from her point of view, struggling with language, struggling with identity – and New York City has a lot of that. When I was in college I had an internship in New York City and, after that, two job offers. So I said, “Sure, let's do it!” New York City seems exciting when you're from a suburb in Massachusetts.
Habitat: What did you do when you first came to New York?
Basile: First, I worked in investment banking and private equity, but I left to become a teacher. I think it's my social responsibility to educate children. My mom passed away when I was 12, and there were plenty of teachers who were there for me. They knew my situation and gave me their time after school. Over time they stepped into a parenting role, and that was what I needed.
I feel that I always want to give back. When I first came to New York, I was volunteering at the Bowery Mission. They were helping men to get their life on track, going from homeless to a home, to a job, to some sort of trade, maybe a GED. So between 1999 and 2001, I went there once a week. People do good things for you, and you realize that there's something rewarding to doing something similar. Then you do it, and if you have the ability to do it well and people think you do a good job, you keep doing it.
Habitat: Recently you became a newbie on your co-op board. Why did you join?
Basile: There was an opening, and I knew a lot of people on the board, really good and talented people, and they suggested, “Why don't you run for the board?” I now work at the Department of Education, where I manage big work streams and teams. I always liked working with strong teams, and our co-op board is a strong team.
I didn't know what board work entailed. I didn't know exactly what my role would be, but I'm invested in this community. We've been here for 18 years now. I've had my kids here, I had a dog – she passed away, but everybody knew my dog, and everybody knows my kids. So it's a nice community. I like being a part of things. And they liked me, so I'm on the board.
Habitat: What are the challenges for a brand-new board member?
Basile: I don't think there's ever a good time to jump in, but I jumped in midyear, and there were decisions in the works. As soon as I joined, I was immediately in on a lot of emails going back and forth about stuff that I didn't have the background to understand. But the way I got through it – and I would recommend this to any new board member – was to find some time with the existing board members and just sit down and ask a lot of questions.
The board meeting is not always the best time for that because it's always after hours; it gets late. People have to make decisions and move things forward. There are a couple of board members who were just absolutely wonderful and would give me two hours on a Sunday for three Sundays in a row just so I could understand things. They helped me organize things, how this document is related to that decision or that project. Then, when the emails started going back and forth, I could make an informed decision.
Habitat: What do you enjoy most about your work on the board?
Basile: Myself and two other board members started a communications committee, and then I started getting really interested in what the board was doing around capital projects. Capital projects are very complex, and they definitely have to be broken down into understandable bits of information so that shareholders understand that what the board is doing is in their best interest.
And the long-term sustainability of the building is very important to me. The things that I'm passionate about or believe in strongly come through in my job or my work on the board. I care about community, I care about giving back to the community, I care about strong effective teams making decisions. And I also care about the future of the planet, and what it has in store for my kids and all of the kids in this building. All the kids in New York City, for that matter. Everybody should be aware of the inner workings of their buildings. It's pretty cool.