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Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Prepare for the Malcontents If Your Building Has Been Red-Tagged by Con Edison

Carol J. Ott in Legal/Financial on October 19, 2015


Mitch Firestone, board president of the Chelsea Seventh condo. Photo by Jennifer Wu.
Firestone, board president of Chelsea Seventh condo
Oct. 19, 2015

Mitch Firestone, board president of the Chelsea Seventh condo, is still reeling from how some of the unit-owners in his building behaved. "As soon as there's real adversity, you see the really ugly side of some people," he says. "They brought out the heavy guns for this."

In Firestone's case, the controversy surrounded the board's decision to seek a credit line to pay for the repairs, instead of an immediate assessment. "How do we know how you're going to spend the money?" some of the unit-owners asked. "Excuse me?" Firestone recalls thinking. "Like what, we're going to get the line of credit and we're all going to go to Rio? What kind of vile question is that? It's really disappointing," he adds. "Because as a board, we have lost a lot of sleep, a lot of time, a lot of professional time dealing with this. To have that kind of garbage thrown at us... I'm still livid."

One of the challenges in a gas-out is gaining access to everyone's apartment to check branch lines and bring connections up to code. "There's a whole subset of people who are incredibly difficult to deal with," remarks Doug Weinstein, executive director of operations and compliance at Akam Associates. "The burden falls on the building staff, who have to perform a ton of outreach to these folks."

Ultimately, though, everyone has to stand strong. "Well, this is the deal," the staff needs to say. "We're coming in now at this time and day, and we really need the access. You either have to be around or give us the keys."

Uncertainty, expense, inconvenience, and the inability to cook are the ingredients that bring out the malcontents. It's hard to prepare for this, and harder yet to handle it over a period of months. After being put through the gas-out wringer, many a board member has thought about throwing in the towel. Yet something keeps them hanging on.

"People already know this is a thankless job." Firestone observes. "At the end of the day, to leave just because there are some misbehaving 'third-graders' in the class is probably not a mature thing to do."

Photo by Jennifer Wu

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