Bill Morris in Board Operations on June 5, 2018
It’s a long way from tiny Taylor, Texas, to downtown Manhattan. Just ask Doug Moss. He grew up in Taylor, working seven days a week in his family’s True Value hardware store. By age 7, Moss had learned how to co-sign checks and balance a checkbook and, even more important, how to be cordial and helpful to every stranger who walked through the door.
Those financial and social skills have come in handy for Moss in his role as a member of his co-op board in an elegant eight-story building on lower Broadway, facing City Hall. Those skills are also valuable in Moss’s professional life – as partner in Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture, with headquarters a little farther south, near the thronged tip of Manhattan.
“Working in the family store, my brothers and I learned at an early age that money doesn’t grow on trees, and you have to manage it and make sure there’s some in your checkbook,” says Moss, 51, who moved into the 41-unit co-op in 2008 and proceeded to gut-renovate his high-ceilinged apartment. He lives there now with Dai Nguyen, who’s studying toward a master’s degree at Hunter College.
“Working in the store was kind of like running a little co-op,” Moss says. “I didn’t just get a work ethic. I learned more about dealing with people than I have anywhere else in my life.”
Moss knew from an early age that he wanted to be an architect. While earning his degree at Texas Tech, he took several school trips to New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago to study the buildings and visit architecture firms. “In New York,” he recalls, “the small-town Texas boy got to visit the big-city architecture office of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer. I was mesmerized.” He landed a summer internship at the firm, got hired after graduation, and eventually rose to partner. In 2004, Moss and fellow partner Malcolm Holzman broke away and, with Nestor Bottino, formed their eponymous firm, which specializes in designing libraries, performing arts centers, and city halls all over the country.
When Moss joined his co-op’s seven-member board in 2009, he had a pretty fair idea of what he was getting himself into. That’s because he had served on the board at his previous co-op in Chelsea, which was close-knit but free-wheeling. The board on lower Broadway is disciplined, thanks to the long-term treasurer, with monthly meetings beginning at 9:15 A.M. sharp and never running more than an hour. “It’s run like a professional business, not a coffee klatsch,” says the co-op’s manager, Ira Meister, president of Matthew Adam Properties. “It’s very efficient.”
So efficient that the board has completed a staggering list of projects during Moss’s tenure – replacing the roof, redoing the hallways and lobby and the mechanicals on both elevators, installing a new intercom, replacing the four rooftop water tanks, switching to a dual-fuel boiler and installing a gas-fired domestic water heater so the boiler doesn’t run in the summer. “Those last two improvements are saving $30,000 a year in fuel costs,” Meister says, “plus they’ve lowered maintenance costs.”
The board paid for all this through a mortgage refinancing, modest annual hikes in maintenance, and one assessment. A line of credit remains untouched.
Moss is crisp in appearance and speech, and he’s clear-eyed about what he brings to his role as a board member. “Because I’ve been part of a family business and I own my own business,” he says, “I’m good at taking complex issues and seeing how to work through them – and then explain the board’s action. My approach is to make sure the infrastructure is in good shape, and if you do aesthetic things, that’s nice. But you have to keep a balance.” Just like that checkbook at the True Value hardware store in Taylor, Texas.
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