People who have known her for years describe Bronx-born Lorry Bogarsky as “just a lovely lady.” Feeling the Bronx was changing – and not for the better – Bogarsky’s father, a clothing manufacturer, moved the family to Hewlett, one of the Five Towns on Long Island, in 1952. Bogarsky has lived there ever since. She moved into the 68-unit Hewlett Park Apartments co-op in 1997, where she has served on the board for the past 20 years. She owned an employment agency but is retired now, a widow with an extended brood of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and a deep dedication to the running of her co-op.
Habitat: You’ve been on your co-op board for 20 years, the past 10 as president. Which qualities make for excellent board members?
Lorry Bogarsky: I think having board members who have had business or professional experience gives the co-op a broader spectrum of expertise. I’m fortunate. On my board, I have an attorney, a professional property manager, a school administrator, a social worker, a person who was on our community’s school board for many years – and she was an educator. And my seventh board member owns his own business.
These kinds of experiences also help with our finances. Our reserve fund is watched very carefully. We don’t spend money frivolously. We are very mindful of the fact that a lot of people in the co-op are on a fixed income. And because we spend money so carefully, we are never in the situation where we are putting people’s lives in jeopardy.
Habitat: How does your personal professional experience help you as board president?
Bogarsky: My experience in my employment agency gave me insight into evaluating people. For instance, being able to read between the lines of a prospective buyer’s application. Because when you look at a person’s history, it has to be logical, it has to follow from year to year. Sometimes people leave significant things out, and often the things they leave out are negative. And if you have a good perspective on judging people, you can often see where the negative spots are. You just learn to evaluate and read people.
Habitat: You say you’re very careful managing the budget. Why did you recently spend quite a bit of money on landscaping?
Bogarsky: Our green areas always looked kind of ho-hum, shabby. The buildings were built in 1947, so they’re typical post-World-War-II garden apartments: two floors, separate entrances, two courtyards. Each courtyard has four entry doors. So we have these large courtyards that have grassy areas and pathways to the doors. They always had grass and they always had trees. And every year we would get a grass cutter – I wouldn’t even call them gardeners – and say, “Plant some flowers for us.” They wouldn’t plant the flowers until the end of June, and it always looked kind of shabby.
We decided that it really could look nicer. One of my board members who had been a gardener when she was in her own home saw a property nearby that she thought was beautiful, and there was a little sign on the property indicating the name of the gardening company. She came to me and said: “I saw it. It was really beautiful.” And I said: “Call them. Let them come.” That was four years ago.
Habitat: So this one board member was especially interested in better landscaping?
Bogarsky: Yes, Cathy Subbiondo. She became our gardening chairman. Anyway, this company, Brightview Landscaping Service, came and looked at the property and went back to the drawing board and came and made a proposal, which was more than we had ever spent on landscaping. But because our finances are in such good shape, we could afford to spend a few thousand dollars more on making the property look really wonderful, and that’s what we did. They made a plan. The first year was nice. The second year looked better. And this year, everything is spectacular because everything is planned. It was not done in a haphazard way. Plants were moved, trees were moved. New trees were put in. New shrubs were put in.
Habitat: Was this a one-time event or is Brightview still taking care of the landscaping?
Bogarsky: We meet with them every winter to talk about what we want to plant in the spring, so that they can order what we want from their nursery. The plants that are annuals go in early in the spring. The rosebushes and the day lilies and other plants that come up every year are now established. They have also planted some flowers in the fall. When winter is over these plants come back in February or March. Except for November, December and January, there’s always something in bloom here.
Habitat: Are any of the residents helping with the gardening, or is the company taking care of everything?
Bogarsky: The company does it. Actually, Cathy Subbiondo does have a green thumb. She goes around and does a little bit of weeding and a lot of watering. She does it because she loves doing it. Everyone walks around complimenting her: “Gee, it looks great!” Or: “The garden is beautiful. You’re doing a wonderful job!” She loves what she’s doing. This is not something that you can force someone to do.
Habitat: How important are appearances for a co-op?
Bogarsky: Oh, I think appearances are very important. This is a suburban area. It’s not like walking down 65th Street and seeing some brownstone houses that may have a little plot of land and a couple of geraniums. All of the properties in this area have some kind of greenery and flowers. So curb appeal is very, very important. Not just for the residents enjoying it – it’s important when a real estate broker brings a client, and the broker can say: “Look at this garden. It’s kept so well. It’s neat, so beautiful and green.”