What would you say has been your most gratifying achievement?
Keeping the building financially sound and providing the services that people are accustomed to while keeping maintenance increases down. It’s a difficult balance, especially with so many newer and younger residents who want more services. Right now the split is about 70% younger people and 30% older. The newer buyers are paying a lot more money for their apartments and carrying huge mortgages. They’re the ones who tend to renovate and upgrade their units as well. So they get impatient if you don’t give them what they feel they deserve.
How has this played out in your building?
Because of shortages we delayed a lot of the work that we had planned to do, like completely upgrading the lobby. We also had to do all kinds of brick work that required a lot more money than we anticipated, which forced us to refinance. But the younger people were, like, “Well, why are you postponing it?” When we redid the hallways, they felt that we should have spent more money. They like to see new things, like intercom systems, and they don’t tend to see things that also take a lot of money from us, like motors, valves, machinery and equipment.
What was the biggest economic surprise that you have faced, and how did you deal with it?
Three months before COVID, the penthouse became available. It was such a great price, and we could buy it directly because the broker had exceeded the time frame. I proposed that we purchase the penthouse and make it into a gym and charge people about $30 per month, which would allow us to pay ourselves back in seven years.
But 25% of people — most of them older — were against it. After the pandemic started, they thought it was foolish and that we were spending money the wrong way and really took on the board. When one of our commercial tenants stopped paying rent, we had issues with finances, and the combination of those two things was the reason why we kind of gave up. I was really disappointed, because an amenity like that would have really enhanced the values of our apartments.
Going forward, what do you see as your co-op’s biggest financial challenge?
Complying with the Climate Mobilization Act. We didn’t anticipate it was going to be this tough. In the past five years, we did so many upgrades it was practically a new building. We replaced our chiller and installed LED lights in the hallways. We asked shareholders to replace the old AC units in their apartments because we couldn’t afford to pay for it. About 75% of them did, which really helped us with energy costs. Our building ended up with a B grade, and we believe we’ll be an A next year. But we still have to come up with new ways to meet the 2030 requirements. And the city is going to keep demanding more and more of us.
Board president (15 years)
165 E. 32nd St.,
Kips Bay, Manhattan
Years of board service: 15
Year built: 1964
Operating budget: $3.26 million
Current assessment: No
Last maintenance increase: 3% in 2022
Property management: AKAM
Accountant: Marin & Montanye
Attorney: Tane Waterman & Wurtzel