Just as the world is populated with both good and bad people, New York City is populated by some excellently run and well-organized co-op and condo boards, and some not so efficient. Making unpopular decisions doesn't necessarily mean a board is incompetent - virtually every decision made is going to have its detractors - but making popular decisions just to avoid controversy may not be in the best interests of the shareholders and the cooperative corporation either.
Like any relationship, communication is key. Shareholders want to know that their concerns are being addressed. Since board members are the faces of the building, so to speak, it's up to them to keep residents informed of where to bring their comments, complaints and suggestions.
Some residents may not be aware of this, but most of the time, the board probably isn't the best place for them to start with questions or grievances about their building. That said, however, the board is responsible for establishing a policy for shareholder communications and keeping the building's population aware of the policy. A lack of communication, or putting off shareholder concerns, can lead to problems in the long run.
One common mistake many shareholders make is that they believe their board members are experts in building matters, and are therefore the first people to contact with suggestions or questions. In reality, board members are residents who take in information and options from managers or managing agents to vote on issues at meetings.
So most of the time, the best route for a shareholder to take in asking questions is to bring them to the appropriate member of the building's staff - the superintendent is clearly the best person to answer a basic maintenance question, while the building manager or agent is the one to go to with a billing issue.