How do you fight that kind of thing? There are many ways, such making portions of your board meetings open to homeowners, sending out print or email newsletters, posting something on your building's Facebook page and one other way many co-op and condo boards don't immediately think of: conducting a survey. If designed correctly, surveys not only accurately reflect what residents want to see, but also cut down on intrigue and gossip.
Surveying the Landscape
Civille's board, for instance, recently sent out two brief surveys. The first was innocuous and only went to users of the gym: Should the exercise equipment be updated to include a spin bike? The second question went out to all the residents — shareholders and subtenants alike — because it was, well, a little more incendiary: Should the co-op become smoke-free?
The survey answers are still coming in, says Civille. While the building can't ban smoking without a change to the proprietary lease, the issue has come up often enough for the board to consider putting it on the next list of items for the annual meeting — if the surveys generate a strong-enough response.
"I used to live in a co-op in Manhattan, and there was all kinds of intrigue," says Ron Cohen, a former board member of a 303-unit condominium in downtown Brooklyn. Disgruntlement was high, and gossip nearly ceaseless. Ignorance was the cause.
"People feel much more connected," he says, when communication is open and clear between the board and the residents.
Adapted from "Talk to Me" by Ruth Ford (Habitat, May 2014)
Illustration by Dave Bamundo
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