Building a Stronger Community Encouraging Neighbors

Are condominiums, co-ops and HOAs cohesive communities? Is community part and parcel of what the purchaser is seeking when they buy into a co-op, condo or HOA? The concept of ‘community cohesiveness’ could be defined as a community in which there is a common vision and a sense of belonging, and where the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued. A frequently-cited reason for buying a condo or co-op over a single family home is the desire to socialize. Even if that’s not toward the top of a buyer’s reasons for purchasing a unit in a multifamily building, the fact is, when you buy a co-op or condo apartment, you also buy into a community. Many factors affect community cohesiveness. A community’s size, design, environment and demographics all play a role in how tight-knit its residents are. The question is how to cultivate a sense of community and belonging among busy, often overbooked residents, and what a board-management team can do to encourage that neighborly feeling.

A Warm Welcome 

Ken Graff has lived at the Edmond Lee, a 12-story, 122-unit building in the Riverdale area of the Bronx since 1982, shortly after the building was converted to a co-op. He became a board member in 2009 and serves as the board’s treasurer. While the building doesn’t have a party room, it does boast a pool and gym.

“When we first moved into the building, it wasn’t a community,” says Graff. “People weren’t cold, but it was just a building. We were still working, (Graff and his wife are now retired) and the only time we saw our neighbors was at the pool. That was the key. Slowly, over the years we got to know some people. When I joined the board, another board member suggested we try to turn the building into more of a ‘community’ – so we started a hospitality committee, which is in charge of organizing pool parties for July 4th and Labor Day, and the holiday party, which is held in the lobby. This is where people get to know each other. And everyone participates; young, old, people with children, and retirees.”  

Graff adds that the hospitality committee isn’t just about event planning. “The committee’s other responsibility is when someone moves in; we visit them to welcome them and bring them a bottle of champagne — Veuve Clicquot, not the cheap stuff! It’s our way of saying welcome to the building. We also encourage the new residents to become involved in the building, and tell them about the various activities and committees. We want them to become part of the community, to participate.”

A Matter of Time

While residents both new and existing are encouraged to get involved in the Edmond Lee community, Graff says it can still be difficult to attract participants. “We can’t do anything to make someone be part of it. Most of the people who are active are retired,” he says, “as I am. When I was working, I couldn’t give the time to the building. Our board has three retirees and four working people. What we’re really hoping for is that someone with younger children will want to serve on the board, so we can get a better idea of what that group’s needs are.”

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