HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

The Engineer Who Became a Property Manager

Bill Morris in Building Operations on June 7, 2018

Jackson Heights, Queens

Ed Ermler

Ed Ermler in the boiler room at Roosevelt Terrace (photo by Danielle Finkelstein). 

June 7, 2018

This article is part of our occasional series, “The Previous Lives of Property Managers.”

Ed Ermler has worn enough hats in his career to keep a milliner in business. He has been a teacher, an electrical engineer, a designer of training equipment. He’s a co-op board president, a husband and a father, and once worked on an ill-fated U.S. Senate campaign. Those experiences have all had a hand in shaping the hat Ermler wears today – as the property manager of five large Manhattan buildings for Midboro Management

But let’s go back to the beginning. Ermler grew up in Valley Stream, Long Island, where his father worked as an engineer on the New York Central Railroad (now Metro North) and his mother was a homemaker. Ermler, now 57, was a born tinkerer, and after earning a degree in electrical engineering from Island Drafting & Technical Institute in Amityville, he taught at the school for four years before going to work for Canon USA, as an engineer and trainer. He then joined CES Industries, designing computer and electronics training equipment used all over the world by schools, governments, and the military. 

In 1998, two momentous things happened in Ermler’s world: he moved into Roosevelt Terrace, a 437-unit, postwar co-op in Jackson Heights, Queens; and he married Marzena Pasek, a native of Poland who works in career development with the New York Public Library. They had a daughter, Ania, now in high school. Before long, Ermler got elected to the Roosevelt Terrace board and started making discomfiting discoveries. 

“The managing agent was highly dysfunctional,” Ermler recalls. “From our management company I learned how not to run a building. Instead of listening to us, they pretty much did whatever they wanted to do. We only found out about a problem when it exploded. It got very contentious toward the end.” 

Long before that relationship was finally terminated, in 2006, Ermler rolled up his sleeves and learned the systems in the co-op’s four buildings and how to run a co-op. His engineering background certainly helped. Under his leadership, the board installed a new security system, LED lights and efficient fixtures, motion sensors in common areas, and a cogeneration system. Obsolete heating-system controls were updated. After running deficits for years, the co-op now has a $2 million reserve fund. 

Ermler’s experiences at work and as a board president fed into his next career move. In 2014 he joined Douglas Elliman, managing affordable housing for seniors in Queens. A year later, he jumped to Midboro. What he brings to the job, he says, “is a combination of business skills, engineering skills, and the ability to train the staff to get them to do what I need them to do without making them feel they’re being forced to do it.”  

Back in 2012, a business acquaintance of Ermler’s named David Christian, a decorated Vietnam veteran, decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Christian needed a web designer and social media guru. “I don’t like politics,” Ermler says, “but this sounded interesting so I jumped on for the ride.” Working from New York, he handled communication between satellite campaign offices across Pennsylvania, occasionally weighing in on policy questions. Christian failed to win the Republican nomination, and the election was won by the Democrat incumbent, Bob Casey. “David was too honest,” Ermler says with a shrug. “To succeed in politics, you have to be willing to sell your dead mother.” 

And to succeed as a property manager? “You’ve got to have a thick skin,” Ermler says. “You’ve got to be a combination of Dr. Phil and Attila the Hun. You’ve got to balance people’s needs, their wants, and their unrealistic expectation – and then take everything they throw at you.” 

Ermler takes it, happily. “I love this job,” he says. “No two days are ever the same.”

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