New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Dear Diary: A Co-op Board President Describes a Year in the Life

Mary Fran in Board Operations on February 28, 2013

Park Terrace Gardens, Inwood, Manhattan

Year in Life of Co-op Board
Feb. 28, 2013

Most of the apartments are owned, although a few rental units are left over from before the building was incorporated. We asked Fran if she'd recall for us, month by month, the ups and downs of her first year as president, so other boards can compare and contrast how their board shapes up against hers. As you read, ask yourself, "Does my board juggle as many problems? Is there as much harmony?" In this three-part diary, she describes how slow and steady efficiency can "win the race" for a pragmatic board.

January — Infrastructure Issues

As board president, I moderate

conflicts and encourage broader

thinking about the overall good.

Board service is exhausting, annoying, funny, frustrating, gratifying and unpredictable, except in its continuing variety. An agenda of 17 items begins our year. We divide our meetings into open and closed sessions so that residents can attend part of the meeting if they wish to do so. Among the "smaller" items to be discussed are an update on our recently installed bike room, updates from committees, a proposal for basement cameras and the management report on operations and maintenance items. The really big stuff, in the form of major repairs to leaking façades, involves reviewing a proposal from two engineering companies on what this work will entail and cost.

Like many older buildings in New York, ours has had to address aging infrastructure and in our case, serious leaks experienced by some of our residents. Decisions have to be made as to which approach to take, who should be our engineer, and how we will proceed with the project when the problem varies in seriousness throughout the complex.

From our first meetings involving this issue we have been confronted with a tradeoff in the cost/benefit: Where was the need the greatest and how much cost could we ask our shareholders to take on? At this first meeting, we approved an engineer and a not-to-exceed amount pending confirmation of a timeline.

We also set up a second January closed board meeting with our attorney and accountants to discuss our finances, maintenance increases, capital improvements, and financial planning in general. Both attorney and accountants consider us in good financial shape but they say it is important to understand our choices, future issues, and how we might prepare for major projects and general cost increases.

February — Renovations

A huge agenda of 24 items greets us at this meeting. A proposal to move and replace the deteriorating garbage stockades is presented as well as a proposal for the energy audit required of all buildings by New York City. These larger issues often take less time and discussion than many "minor" ones. A new requirement from the city regarding emergency phones in elevators, one with which we have to comply, engenders a lot of back and forth about what kind, what design, which company to do it, where the phones are to be placed (not much choice here). During our closed session there are legal cases to discuss, questions about fees, apartment renovations, lease renewals and problems connected to water intrusion, among other items.

The personal dynamics of working with a board contribute to the efficiency and efficacy of how problems are solved. Everyone brings her / his own interests and experience to board work. Our 2012 board had two architects with considerable expertise but who often disagreed on how to proceed. We have members for whom our garden is supremely important or for whom energy conservation is paramount. As board president I find it difficult to moderate these conflicts and to encourage broader thinking about the overall good of the co-op.

To see what happens over the next interim, watch for part two later this month or pick up the March issue of Habitat.


Photo by Tom Soter.

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