New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

BOARD OPERATIONS

HOW CO-OP/CONDO BOARDS OPERATE

The Quarter-Century Education of a Co-op Board President

Tom Soter in Board Operations on July 25, 2017

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Community Q&A

Martin Mirkin, board president at the Newport East co-op on the Upper East Side (photo by Jennifer Wu)

July 25, 2017

Martin Mirkin has lived at 370 East 76th Street since 1989. Built as a rental in 1966, the 364-unit property, with three towers ranging from 14 to 20 stories, went co-op in 1985. Mirkin, who worked in the apparel business for decades, became president of his seven-member board in 1991. He’s a lifelong New Yorker, who majored in business administration at Boston University. He has three daughters.

Habitat: What attracted to you to the building?

Mirkin: The amenities. At that time, I had a young child, and the building has a swimming pool on the roof. The location on First Avenue was good for me, as well, because I would take a car down to work.

Habitat: Tell me about your early years.

Mirkin: I grew up in Washington Heights and went to Columbia Grammar. Initially, I went into the apparel business, worked for Burlington Industries, which was a big conglomerate. In my early thirties, I started my own business.

Habitat: Has the role of a president been different from what you expected?

Mirkin: No, not at all. The main thing that I had to learn was how to deal with many types of individuals of all ages who live in the building. There’s such a big diversity in here that, with all the issues that come up, there’s always differences between the older people, the younger people, and those that have lived here for a period of time.

Habitat: How do you balance that? How do you keep the peace?

Mirkin: In many cases, you don’t. But 90 percent of the time, I’m able to keep the peace by taking the time out to give the courtesy of an explanation. For instance, right now we’re trying to get 75 percent of the building to amend our proprietary lease to make the building “no-smoking.” We have to explain to people that, economically, it’s beneficial because most new young people coming in prefer to be in a smoke-free environment. We also have to explain that we did get complaints from other people while living in the building that the smoking was annoying them. They were concerned about secondhand smoke, and the law says that you have to do something. So we are doing something.

Habitat: What are some leadership lessons?

Mirkin: I learned to be discreet and not to dictate, but talk to people in an authoritative way. I also was educated in everything from plumbing to lighting to mechanicals.

Habitat: What did you learn in the apparel business that you applied to your board duties?

Mirkin: Because I was in the buying and selling in the apparel business, I knew how to negotiate with the contractors that came into the building, from elevator contractors to plumbing contractors to electrical contractors. There are always challenges – in finding people to do the correct and proper jobs, whether it applied to Local Law 11 projects, or to simple plumbing projects, or to hiring people to run the pool. I got involved pretty much in every aspect of that.

Habitat: What is the toughest challenge you’ve had in the time you’ve been there?

Mirkin: We had a lobby renovation 16 years ago, and we are in the process of doing a new lobby renovation as we speak. We did the hallways. We put in a new air-conditioning system, a cogeneration system, a new boiler, and refurbished the swimming pool. All within the last 10 years, by refinancing.

Habitat: How do you juggle the time between your job and the board?

Mirkin: I’m basically semi-retired. I’m 77 – I still play basketball. Not well, but I still make an attempt to throw the ball up to the rim.

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