Ed Goldfarb was born and raised in the Bronx, where his father worked as a hairdresser while his mother worked in the ladies’ hat department at Macy’s. Goldfarb, 79, retired from a career as a marketing executive with Federated Department Stores, which bought Macy’s in 1996, a job that took him all over the world. Now he likes to stay close to his home in the Heritage Hills condominium complex in northern Westchester County, where he is president of the condo board and where he and his wife, Sheila, can be close to their grandchildren. Sheila says she never thought she would be a country girl.
Habitat: What’s special about Heritage Hills?
Goldfarb: Well, first of all it’s gorgeous, it really is, especially now that the leaves are changing color. It’s a magnificent place to live. The community is made up of 30 separate condominium associations with roughly 5,000 people. In mine there are 101 units. Heritage Hills was originally built as an over-45-year-old community. Then, about 20 years ago, New York State changed the condominium law, and the community had to open its doors to anybody who wanted to live here. Now we have young people with very young children up to the older people and the seniors. I think we have about 300 children in the community, but the majority of the overall Heritage Hills population is, I would say, about 75% seniors and middle age.
Habitat: How did the older population react to having so many young children around?
Goldfarb:I’d rather not say (laughs). Some people don’t have a problem with it; some people do. I think it’s generally the younger people who have more of an issue than the older people because there’s a lack of space for the children to play. We have no playgrounds. The closest playground is in a park, which is roughly six, seven miles away from the community. The young families want something right here, but there’s no space.
For instance, my neighbor has two young children. They play outside in a cul-de-sac, and we require an adult to be with them at all times because delivery trucks and cars are coming in and out. So it’s not terrific, but we try to make it work, and it does work. Within our community there are five swimming pools. A couple of years ago we converted one of the swimming pools to make it suitable for small children.
Habitat: Why are young families drawn to Heritage Hills?
Goldfarb: Because the taxes are extremely low. In the Town of Somers, where Heritage Hills is located, if you own a three-bedroom house, your taxes would be somewhere around $18,000 a year. In Heritage Hills, the same three-bedroom condominium’s taxes are somewhere around $5,000 a year.
Habitat: Do the families with young children band together?
Goldfarb: The young families are organized in a group called The Family Network, and they meet and try to make changes within the community. Some things they get; some things they cannot get. For instance, this past summer they wanted an ice-cream truck to come to each of the pools in the afternoons. Now, one of the rules in Heritage Hills is that no vendors are allowed. And the parents said, “Well, these are extraordinary circumstances because we have a pandemic.” And the board of directors that operates the facilities in Heritage Hills decided that no, they were not going to allow it because it’s difficult to control the amount of vehicle traffic within the community. The pools are on main roads, and trucks and cars zoom by. The board just didn’t want to allow for kids running out into the road because the ice-cream truck is there. You know, safety first.
Habitat: How has life changed in Heritage Hills during the pandemic?
Goldfarb: Many things that made retired life here really nice had to stop. We have a building dedicated to activities, and you can join maybe 50 different clubs and classes – we have book clubs, woodworking, pottery, mah-jongg, canasta. There’s a huge bridge club. We have a million-dollar fitness center. Right now, because of COVID-19, those things are not going on, but they are slowly starting back up again.
Habitat: Why do you serve on the board?
Goldfarb: I enjoy doing things for people. I enjoy making sure that the infrastructure remains safe, that the buildings are maintained properly, that the roads are kept safe. Plus we’re making sure that the vendors we hire are doing what we want them to do.
Habitat: What skills make you a good board member?
Goldfarb: When I was working for Federated Department Stores, I was responsible for close to about $2 billion worth of retail sales. I had to do a budget every six months to make sure that the businesses that I was involved in made a profit. So now as president of a condo, I have a budget, and I must make sure that we stick to the budget. I also have to make sure that my condo finishes in the black and not the red. As a condo president, it’s somewhat similar. The job has its pros and its cons.
Habitat: What are the cons of being the board president?
Goldfarb: It’s a lot of work. I have to tell you, I work harder now as president of the condo than I did when I was working for Macy’s. I put in anywhere from six to eight hours a day managing the condo. Also, you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, you just can’t.
People say to me: “Don’t you ever say yes to anything? It’s always no.” Well, that’s not true. The majority of times I do say yes. A bad day is when I get up in the morning, and the phone starts ringing. Then I know for sure that it’s not going to be a good day. And if the phone doesn’t ring – oh my God, what a great day that will be!