Paula Chin in COVID-19 on May 3, 2021
The co-op board at Concourse Village was at wits’ end. The sprawling prewar Mitchell-Lama complex was plagued by problems on every front, from badly needed facade repairs to an aging plumbing system to significant shareholder arrears. “We had been trying to build up our finances, but with our prior management companies it seemed we were just hemorrhaging money,” says Rosetta Kirkland, the co-op’s president. “We had to find someone new.”
Having prospective management companies tramping through the site amid the pandemic’s early days, however, was the last thing anyone wanted. It didn’t take long for the 13-member board, which had started holding virtual monthly meetings in March 2020, to come up with a solution: preparing a PowerPoint presentation detailing the co-op’s needs and showing it to all the management company candidates in one fell swoop at a Zoom meeting.
Easier said than done, as it turned out. The process involved lots of brainstorming sessions, many of which involved group walkthroughs of the nearly four-acre, 1,872-unit property, which consists of six 25-story towers perched on a platform over the former New York Central rail yards. The board turned to one of its new members, a photography buff named Dennis Boyd, to take hundreds of pictures that would vividly illustrate the condition of the physical plant, from the bowels of the boiler rooms to the parking lots to the rooftops.
“The presentation took months,” says Karen Reede, the recording secretary. The board was given a list of management companies that work with Mitchell-Lama developments. “We narrowed it down to the six that best met our requirements,” Reede says. These six were then invited to join the Zoom session.
The August 2020 meeting went off without a hitch. A 74-slide presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session. “This allowed bidders to hear the same information and gave everyone an equal footing,” says Michael T. Reilly, an attorney at Norris McLaughin who represents the co-op. “More important, it allowed them to comprehend the magnitude of the complex and grounds. From an efficiency standpoint, it just made sense.”
The attendees were given three weeks to submit their bids. Meanwhile, the board was doing its due diligence, researching the bidders, checking references, even making socially distanced visits to other properties managed by them.
After winnowing the field to three finalists, the board conducted in-person interviews and ended up hiring Bronx-based Prestige Management, which came on board in January 2021. “They had the most experience with the issues we are facing, which we explained to our shareholders,” Kirkland says. “We told them we’re confident that they know exactly what our community needs, but as they’re just starting out, we also asked people to be patient.”
Indeed, communication is a priority at Concourse Village. “We send out forms to our shareholders so they can submit questions, and then we disseminate the information back to residents,” says Vivian Lynette, a board member. “We have monitors in the lobbies where we put up information and robocalls that alert people when the water is going to be shut off or any other issue. When they know what’s going on, our community is happier.”
Compassion is high on the list as well. “We’ve told our shareholders to come and talk to management if they can’t pay their maintenance, because we’re fully aware that people have lost jobs due to COVID-19,” Lynette adds. “We even curtailed our late fees and passed out food.”
As for the long list of capital projects that lie ahead – including balcony repairs, installing backflow preventers and elevator modernization – the board is planning to start some of those later this year. “There are always going to be challenges,” Kirkland says, “but having new management is a huge step forward.”
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