Getting Good Help Tips to Building a Better Board

 Who wouldn’t want to be on the board of directors of their co-op or condo, watching over  their most precious possession and probably their most significant investment—their home?

 Most people, actually. It’s a rare co-op or condominium corporation that has candidates vying for the job.  According to attorney David Brauner of the law firm of Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf and president of his co-op board, come election time it’s more about “persuading people to serve, than reducing the number of people anxious to serve.”  

 Indeed, “there are cases, especially in smaller buildings, where people just drop off and  the building doesn’t have a board,” reports Stephen Elbaz, a property manager and the president of Brooklyn-based  Esquire Management Corp., which runs co-ops and condominiums New York and New  Jersey. “I have a seven-unit building where there hasn’t been a board in seven years.”  

 Why is That?

 According to real estate attorney Helene W. Hartig, who also serves as president  of her co-op board, “Many shareholders are just too tired or stressed at the end of the day to sit at  a meeting and discuss flowers in the lobby or issues with the staff. They would  rather go to the gym or chill out by watching The Voice.” Plus, time pressure has gotten more intense in recent years, she adds, “with the impact of the recession, which means longer hours at work.”  

 Another reason people don’t volunteer, says Elbaz, “is they don’t like being cornered in the hallway, the elevator and the laundry room and have  to listen to people’s complaints.” Residents often approach a board member, he says, if, say, their sink is  leaking, even though they know the normal protocol is to contact management. (“Though it probably is effective,” he admits.)  

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Comments

  • Researcher in the Know on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:36 PM
    Hmmmm. This article has created a fairy tale of an exit from Coop problems while smoothing out the many rough edges of coop life today by a patina of re-assurances that a well managed coop--by a management company , of course, with a good lawyer, of course, can resemble a small piece of domestic heaven. Nonsense! Real life in 99% of NYC "coops"---struggling or East Side wealthy---represent an atavistic institution if there ever was one. In all but a few that They are beyond fractious to the point of enriching lawyers and alienating residents. Many coops occur in old buildings with infrastructural and maintenance problems that have been neglected for years--while debt, costs and charges have spiraled out of control.Those employed to solve problems-- managers and attorneys--, have found a sweet spot in the city economy. They sit back and get paid--alot--and contribute to bleeding coop reserves via bad advise that leads to escalating maintenance and assessments. Most people who buy in a coop and most board members know little about management or administration, about real estate finance, how to make optimal decisions, or how to communicate well and solicit input from diverse populations. Many large old coops inhabit buildings need of frequent attention and frequent decisions --about which no one agrees. At the same time, managers have at the ready a stable of contractors, architects and others more than willing to vie to get paid--and in turn too often pay back. Newer Condo's--especially in developing neighborhoods-- are frequently the result of an owner creating a coop or condo to get out from under legal problems and huge bills. When they are left holding too many rent regulated apartments after a conversion, they then sell remaining apts. to one or another of the eagerly awaiting buyers who specialize in picking up leftover rental units post a conversions or they renovate and churn-- "encouraging" old and new occupants to vacate times over--meanwhile still keeing control over Boards for any number of years. Shareholder members of many boards are sometimes selected by owners of unconverted units or are "elected" because there is no competition--especially in a fractious but needy building. Building problems are thereby compounded by a combustible combination of greed, inexperience, and arrogance--not least in relationship to shareholders who end up excluded from decisions about how best to use their money. Add to the mix lawyers and management companies who in combination soon gain control over the "coop" and the board; some are more subtle than others but most side with the residual owners of remaining rental units. Soon these people and management companies and their favorite attorneys and contractors etc. are allied, and can simply take over-- subtly or overtly: They soon form a closed shop with Supers and staff, and quite cleverly work as a team to make sure that the Board delegates the actual decision making and running of a coop to them. Costs soon begin to increase regularly; it may seem harsh to note that their collective hands are almost never far from a till of one kind or another. ............................................ In point of fact, coops have moved far away from their initial purpose--housing a middle class in a literally "cooperative" building of people who knew how to put their shoulders to a wheel and move things along for the good of the whole. These days Coops and Condos are simply another corporate form of big business. Budgets expand, more and more money is borrowed and fees go up and up--even through downturns Shareholders either have to keep paying more and more or they have to sell out and try to fin another place to live. Sound familiar to anyone? No need to go on quite yet...but do keep your eyes open for the full story........IF if is approved and posted by the powers that be behind the "Cooperator"