New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Tom Soter in Board Operations on December 7, 2015
“She is always very hands-on,” observes Michael Larkin, a senior structural engineer at RAND Engineering & Architecture, a firm that has worked with the condo for many years.
Shortly after she’d finished supervising an expensive repair job to eliminate serious leaks in the upper floors, Butler paused to reflect on what drew her to the building, and the perils and pleasures of board service.
“I had just been married for a couple of years,” she recalls. “We needed to move, and we pulled up in the car in front of this building, and my husband, who was a Harvard MBA and is a very sophisticated guy, said, ‘Let's look.’ I said, ‘This is ridiculous, we don't have the money to buy an apartment. Why are we wasting our time?’ I was really very difficult. He said, ‘Let's just go in and look.’ We didn't know what a condominium was – this was only the second large condominium in New York – and I didn't even know what a mortgage was. We went in, and as soon as they explained what was involved, and what the down payment was, and that they had arranged for a mortgage with Banker's Trust, I understood immediately and realized it was a much better deal than the rental apartments we were looking at.”
What possessed her to join the condo board?
“I own more than one apartment in the building, and I also have an office downstairs,” she says. “I'm a psychoanalyst and a divorce mediator, and I work in the building, so I'm here a lot. My kids went to school in the neighborhood, so I've always been very invested in the building. And the building has a good mixture of people: from financial people to people in art and design. Then some older people who bought here a long time ago, and a lot of families with kids now, quite a few.”
Serving on a co-op or condo board is demanding, stressful work that pays exactly nothing. Was Butler ever tempted to walk away from this thankless job?
“I dropped off once when we had somebody on the board who was an alcoholic who would come to the meetings drunk,” she says. “It drove me insane, and I couldn't do it, so I quit. Then he quit, and I came back. We now have one new member, because one very valuable member started traveling a lot, and just wasn't available for meetings on a regular basis.”
There’s an aspect to head-shrinking in the running of a New York co-op or condo. Has Butler’s work as a psychoanalyst helped her perform her board duties?
“Probably,” she says with a laugh. “Seriously, though, we have a great board, and it's been very stable. Almost everyone's been on the board a really long time, and it is very harmonious. It's really a pleasure to be on it – otherwise, I wouldn't be.”
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