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The Primary Way to Wrest Control from a Developer Who Won't Give It Up

Mychel Namphy in Board Operations on May 23, 2013

Strivers Gardens, 300 W. 135th Street, Central Harlem

Mychel Namphy; photograph by Jennifer Wu

Mychel Namphy, Convener of Primary Committee

May 23, 2013

And it was a big problem: The developer appointed the board, controlled the building's finances, had his own management company running the building, and ensured that all the contracts that the building established were with his friends. There was just no way we could do anything as far as control of our own situation. 

We didn't know everything we needed to know about how to solve this problem and so we kept losing elections. Then in 2011, one unit-owner managed to get 83 unit-owner votes; he was the leading vote-getter but was not seated because the developer did not let him. We published the results, so all of the unit-owners could see what was happening; they demanded that the unit-owner vote be honored, and there were demands for resignations. One of the board members actually did resign, but they still had four board members and therefore the majority of the board.


At about that time, I met a lawyer who worked with the management company Maxwell-Kates. (Our management is Halstead-Penmark.) The lawyer suggested we consolidate our vote. We did so by staging a primary.


Lobby, 300 W. 135th Street

This is how it works: Our polls are open for eight days. A week and a half before the annual meeting you have a table in the lobby, attended by a rotating group of "primary election" committee members. You also go door-to-door and chase down everybody in the building. The idea is that anybody in the building can run. But with their ballot, they would submit a proxy and an agreement that they support the primary process and that the winners of the primary would appear on all of the ballots that are submitted at the annual meeting.

In previous elections, we had split our votes among too many people and we didn't consolidate power. With the primary, our residents agreed that the winners would be the ones that would run in the general election.

It worked. We ended up having 73 percent of the vote. We got control of the board. 


Photo Mychel Namphy by Jennifer Wu

Lobby: Click to enlarge.

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