139 E. 33rd St.
He found his true calling – information technology – in college. A native of Guangzhou, China, Kwan, 51, moved to New York in 1979 and got hooked on management information systems after his parents bought him an IBM personal computer during his student days at Binghamton University. He’s been the Wendhorn’s go-to tech guy for 23 years.
HABITAT: You’ve served on your board for over two decades, so you obviously love the gig.
KWAN: Well, yes. Even when I temporarily moved to a condo on the Upper East Side and sublet my studio for four years, I still attended all the meetings and took an interest in the co-op. I came back in 2002 because a one-bedroom apartment opened up next door to the studio, and I could combine them. In general, I like to use my analytical background and the tech understanding I’ve developed over 24 years as a senior engineer at Goldman Sachs and two and a half years at BoardPackager, where I was chief system officer, and apply it to more effectively run our co-op.
HABITAT: How have you done that?
KWAN: Most recently, I ran our co-op’s annual meeting virtually last July. After first evaluating some vendors, I gathered a tech committee of shareholders – a programmer, a business owner and a cybersecurity expert at Goldman Sachs – and we came up with our own protocol. That included user agreements, since we had a board member who was very concerned with privacy, as well as a way to parse the voting using programming code.
HABITAT: And that ended up leading to bigger things?
KWAN: Two days after our meeting, I “chatted” into a webinar on holding virtual annual meetings. A board member from another building tracked me down via my LinkedIn profile and saw that I had worked at BoardPackager, which is used in his building as well. Long story short, I ended up doing his building’s virtual annual meeting and have done over a dozen more since then through my company, Kwan Consulting, with more contracts coming up in 2021. I’m constantly working on improving the process with software changes for the next annual election season. I think one key reason buildings hire me is due to the low rates I charge, as I work with the property management firm’s staff, who serve as inspectors of elections. And in current pandemic times, given the financial difficulties many boards are facing, everyone can use a break.
HABITAT: You must take some pride that your building is using BoardPackager, since you helped develop it.
KWAN: While I was there, I did testing to find inefficiencies and try to improve the product. I still bounce ideas with the CEO and COO. As for our building, it’s been a money saver when it comes to purchase applications. The average application is roughly 300 pages, and you’ve got to multiply that times seven board members. Now we no longer need a professional shredding bin.
HABITAT: What projects are you working on now?
KWAN: A lobby lift. When you come into our building from street level, there are steps going down into the lobby, so when people need to use a wheelchair, we have a temporary ramp that we assemble. But people in our building are getting older, and we’re getting more young children, so we looked into installing a platform that will lift people in a wheelchair or a stroller up to street level, which they can operate themselves. That way they can enter or exit without the doorman having to lift the stroller or get the temporary ramp. I’m not an architect, but I do have access to drawing programs and drew out some designs for the lobby lift, which I actually shared with the vendor that we are now considering.
HABITAT: Have there been any projects you’ve had to scuttle due to the pandemic?
KWAN: Yes. Aside from a laundry room and storage rooms, our building lacks a lot of key amenities, so I proposed converting the mailroom off the lobby into a conference room for board meetings or one that people can reserve just as a place to gather. That would involve moving the mailboxes out a little bit, and I went ahead and drew up some schematics to see if it could be done. Then COVID-19 hit. No one wants to be in an enclosed room now, so that’s been put on hold.
HABITAT: You had already made some improvements to the mailroom, correct?
KWAN: We did put a monitor there and hooked it up to a BuildingLink screen so people can know when they get mail. We had been using paper logbooks to track packages, and I saw the need for digital tracking well before the increase of deliveries due to COVID-19. I did some research into the software, and after evaluating them we chose BuildingLink. We have yet to put in some of the features, like work orders. But I’m working now to scan all of the building’s past work orders and then get the usage data into a spreadsheet so that we can see what trends are there and try to incorporate them to benefit the co-op.
HABITAT: What inspires you to work so hard for your co-op?
KWAN: I just love my building. In fact, when my mom, who’s 84, sold her house, we found her an apartment here. Then the one next door to us became available, so I bought that unit and sold hers. Now she and my brother are literally my next-door neighbors.