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Taking Charge: Hanan Thabet

You could say that Hanan Thabet has come full circle. The Manhattan native grew up at the Wendhorn, a 15-story, 192-unit co-op on East 33rd Street in Murray Hill, before heading off to Egypt to attend the American University in Cairo. Returning to the city to pursue a master’s degree in Near East studies at New York University, she lived in various rental apartments — never straying far from her childhood home — before becoming a shareholder at the Wendhorn in 2014. Now wrapping up her first year as a board member, Thabet, who is the vice chair of the youth development organization South Bronx United, spoke with Habitat about the satisfaction that comes with giving back to her building.come with meeting them.


Family history. My father came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1964 as a graduate student at NYU. After he married my mother, they moved into a studio here, and when the building converted to a co-op in 1981, they bought apartment 12L. After I married, my husband and I lived in different rentals in the neighborhood, and when the one-bedroom next door went on the market in 2014, we snapped it up. 

Job description. The board here had been very entrenched for decades, but there was finally a change of guard a couple of years ago. Then it changed again, and a very savvy entrepreneur became a member. He was able to get the building out of a really terrible commercial lease with a parking garage. Now we technically own the garage and pay the garage company an operating fee, but the revenue comes to us. He encouraged my husband and me to run for the board, but my husband was working for the city with the mayor’s office, and there would’ve been a lot of instances in which he would’ve had to recuse himself because of conflicts of interest.

I was hesitant at first, but the board secretary, a longtime resident and also a friend, helped me understand what was involved. She broke it down into what the expectations would be — managing costs, finding efficiencies, building savings and so forth — and the hours-per-month commitment.  Once it was put in those terms, I became really intrigued. 

Busy, busy. At the time, the board was fully immersed in wrapping up Local Law 11 repairs, so there were no immediate projects. The first year for me was collecting information, observing and learning. I like to decode, deconstruct and understand everything before I can comfortably weigh in. This year I’m hoping to play a more active role. We’re in the middle of renovating the lobby and installing a ramp to make it ADA compliant and modifying our storage system to accommodate the massive influx of packages that every building is dealing with, and everything’s going well so far. 

We’re now looking at what measures we can implement to comply with Local Law 97, including upgrading our boilers from oil to natural gas. We know we’re going to have fines starting in 2025, but we want to mitigate them. I’m actually co-leading those efforts with the board president. 

Money matters. I’m learning a lot from her, because she’s a project management professional and is an expert at keeping people on task. The board decided to do a one-time, 12-month assessment to ensure that we maintain our strong cash reserves because that’s one of the things that make this building attractive. Our previous treasurer put a lot of our money in high-yield CDs, so we continue to see our investments grow. 

As for maintenance increases, they’ve been nominal, between 1% and 3%. That’s quite low relative to other buildings in the neighborhood, so it’s another big draw for the co-op. That said, we don’t have any amenities. There was talk of installing a roof garden about five years ago, but cost became an issue. I would like to reopen that conversation because it seems that every building built around the same time as ours has one. 

Call to duty. Entering my second term, I’m actually realizing that it’s quite difficult to recruit people to the board. We’re in the process of finding a seventh member, and we sadly find ourselves in a position where we are tapping on shoulders and trying to solicit people who we think could offer expertise. But I think people feel like it’s too heavy a lift or like they might not have the time or ability. I’m hoping that once our crop of younger shareholders have been living here for a longer period of time, they’ll understand the mechanics and the importance of playing a fiduciary role in the building. 

Home sweet home. I’m an only child, and we’re a very close-knit family, so living next door to my mom — my father passed away a few years after my husband and I moved in — has been wonderful. My parents turned their apartment into a two-bedroom, and my two kids sleep there at night. We are planning on combining the two units, but for all intents and purposes, we’re already a three-generation household. It’s great to be back in the building where I grew up. 

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