New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Glad-hander

Andy Marks likes to tell people a story of his children growing up that’s about something you’d wouldn’t normally expect: scaffolding. “I talk about how my kids literally never saw our building without scaffolding or sidewalk sheds outside, because there were always bricks that were being replaced somewhere,” says Marks, who moved into Sherman Tower East at 363 E. 76th St. with his young family in 2002. The co-op’s board had taken a piecemeal approach to maintaining the red-brick facade of the 20-story, 210-unit building in an effort to keep costs down. “Which was understandable, but not aesthetically pleasing,” Marks says. “We had salmon-colored bricks here and white ones there. It was a real hodgepodge.”

But by 2013, when the facade and underlying concrete had deteriorated past the point of patchwork fixes, the board bit the bullet and decided to have the entire building reskinned – a five-year, multimillion-dollar project that required a mortgage refinance. That was also when Marks decided to step up. “Beyond the repairs, there was the larger issue of environmental sustainability, which I’d studied in college,” he says. “So the next year, I ran for the board, got elected, and joined the construction committee.”

Marks became the co-op’s president two years later. Looking back, he realizes he’d always had the temperament for the job. At annual meetings, when residents let fly with their pent-up frustrations, “I often found myself interceding on behalf of the board,” he says. “I understood where they were coming from and tried to translate that to shareholders to calm them down.”

Marks also brings a value-added background to the table. The Great Neck, N.Y., native was an insurance underwriter at Chubb, and he inspected buildings – including co-ops and condos – for infrastructure risk. After making a career detour as an actor in Los Angeles, he shifted to digital advertising before co-founding a branded entertainment company, which was eventually sold to the public relations giant Edelman. He then set up his own shop, Marks Entertainment, producing documentaries, films and other content for independent and corporate clients.

Making a Connection
Having spent 20-plus years in advertising, Marks has sharp communication and people skills – and he puts them to good use at Sherman Tower. “As I see it, being board president is like being mayor of a small town in that you want to be approachable, open and friendly so you can have a rapport with residents,” Marks says. He’s also taken things a step further than face-to-face meet-and-greets. In February, he inaugurated a new tradition: the “President’s Year in Review,” a detailed report that will be distributed annually after the end of the co-op’s fiscal year on Jan. 31.

“This first one outlined all our key projects, infrastructure upgrades and finances, and thanked our resident manager, managing agent and building staff for their heroic efforts during the pandemic,” Marks says of the five-page document, which was emailed, posted on BuildingLink and slipped under doors for people who requested a hard copy. “I also used it as an opportunity to thank my fellow board members, who are as fantastic and collaborative as can be – which not all buildings can say – and to welcome new residents by name and spotlight people’s charitable activities like fundraising and food drives. It’s not just about the transactional, business side of things. You want to instill a feeling of community.”

Going Green
With the reskinning project behind them – along with the installation of an entrance ramp and new railings on all balconies – the seven-member board is now focusing on improving the building’s energy efficiency. Last October, when Sherman Tower received its Energy Star letter grade from the Department of Buildings, it got a D. “I understand that’s not unusual, but clearly we have to improve things and have already begun to make some changes,” says Marks, who boned up on the subject by taking classes at Urban Green Council.

Working with the energy consultant Bright Power, the board is in the process of installing new modular air conditioning chillers, a gas-fired boiler and a cogen system. The massive project, which is being done in phases over a nine-month period to keep disruption to residents at a minimum, is being financed with a recent mortgage refi, enabling the board to avoid an assessment or maintenance increase. “We’ve got more work to do,” Marks says, but combined with the reskinning and tightening of the building’s envelope, we’re on our way.”

As for his personal agenda, there’s been another career pivot on the calendar. After completing coursework at the Real Estate Board of New York and passing his broker licensing exam last fall (“I’m a card-carrying salesperson now,” he says with a laugh), Marks began showing properties with his wife, Nanette, a partner at Rozencwaig Marks Realty, a boutique firm that specializes in co-ops and condos. In June, he will begin working as senior vice president at the property management firm Maxwell-Kates, overseeing new business development and marketing. “I was looking for a way to incorporate of all my diverse experience,” he says. “This is a good fit.”

Marks is also hoping to extend his term as Sherman Tower’s de facto mayor. “I’m committed to the mission,” he says. I’m all about community, and I’d like to stay on for as long as they’ll have me.”

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