President, Nine-G Cooperative Inc.
33 W. 93rd St., Upper West Side
5 stories, 29 units
What he does full time: Lawyer turned arts administrator
Length of board service: 30 years; two previous terms as president
I’d say there are three key things involved in keeping a co-op running well, and the first is representation. We have 29 units and a seven-member board, so at any given time 25% of our shareholders are actually on the board. That already is a pretty good representation of different interests, but we make sure that we have people from the front and back of the building, from high floors and lower ones, from studios and three-bedroom apartments. We also have a mix of longtime residents and newer ones, so we’re constantly rotating members and soliciting new people to keep that balance.
The second thing is collaboration. Our bylaws and proprietary lease give the board extensive discretion to make decisions, but the board has traditionally never done that without shareholder input. They approve the budget every year, even though the board alone is technically allowed to do that. Any assessments go before the shareholders along with an explanation of why they are necessary. We’re finalizing a capital plan that involves getting about $5 million in financing for building renovations, and out of 29 apartments, 27 voted yes. Two units voted no. We already had an 8% assessment in place specifically to build capital reserves, and the new plan is going to add another 14 or 15%. But shareholders approved the financing because we’ve kept maintenance low.
That leads to the third thing, which is careful financial planning. As a small non-full-service building we’re quite lean in terms of expenses, but we’re still prudent stewards when it comes to managing the co-op’s business. For example, we raised our flip tax a few years ago because we knew we wanted to start building reserves for the capital plan. It was a complicated formula based on maintenance, assessments and the improvements that would be needed. We did some market research and saw what buildings in the area were doing. We raised it to a straight 3% of the sale price and had a vote. Other than two or three people who are philosophically opposed to a flip tax, the shareholders all approved it.
From my work experience, I know how important it is to make sure a client’s interests are being protected and seen, and it’s no different with our shareholders. We have no sponsor apartments, so you can’t rent, and we’ve made it very difficult to sublet because we want people here to be primary residents who are invested in the building. Collaboration is a big part of our ethos. I’ve been on the board for 30 years, and this is my third term as president, but I can’t take credit for it, because that ethos existed before I came here.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.