Unlike most firms managing major co-op and condo properties in the metropolitan area, Mark Greenberg Real Estate (MGRE) is not located in Manhattan or another city borough, but is situated in the quaint Long Island town of Port Washington, a locale known for boating, water recreation and a pristine quality of life for its inhabitants. Directly across from the Port Washington railroad station, just a town or two past the well-known town of Great Neck, MGRE’s offices exude a constant cheerfulness. A receptionist greets with a smile and a tidbit of words. Staff passing by her desk are busy, but offer friendly greetings to each other. "We have a great working atmosphere," says Steven Greenbaum, director of management of the company’s 30 employees.
When asked if it has been a hindrance to be located on Long Island, Greenbaum suggests just the opposite. "Almost all of our staff is from Long Island," he says. "And, if anything, we have much more space and resources here than we’d have in the city, so we’re able to keep more records on the premises," allowing efficient and effective management.
The Logical Choice
As the firm’s name suggests, MGRE was formed 21 years ago by president Mark Greenberg, a young man who bought buildings and converted them into co-ops and condos. Right before the collapse of the real estate market in 1987, Greenberg stopped the conversions and analyzed the business. During the same time, people in many of Greenberg’s converted buildings had asked that the company manage the properties. According to Greenbaum, Greenberg decided to give property management a shot. The decision has proven successful.
Vice president James Goldstick joined the firm in 1981 and Greenbaum came along in 1984. Greenberg provides an invaluable resource for the company in terms of financial guidance. According to Goldstick, Greenberg "has an incredible knack for knowing sponsors, mortgages, and restructuring loans. When any of our buildings need creative methods, Mark’s a genius to get help from."
MGRE manages over 45 co-ops and condos, amounting to over 7,000 units in the New York City/Long Island area. Forty percent of the firm’s properties are in Manhattan; the other 60 percent are located in Queens, Brooklyn, Riverdale and Nassau County. Greenbaum offers a prompt explanation why buildings should opt for his company instead of any other. He says MGRE’s major advantage is the hands-on involvement of the firm’s executives and back office staff. Each board member is granted full access to not only their property managers, but to Greenbaum and Goldstick as well.
According to Greenbaum, "James and I attend every board meeting of all of our buildings along with the property managers. There’s no reasonable way a property manager can do everything from capital improvements to board/shareholder relations. We don’t want to overburden them. We feel that the role of the property manager is to be at the property and to have the support and presence of the company’s executives." Goldstick adds, "When Steve or I go to a meeting, we know what’s going on, we make sure the agents are prepared, that there is a full agenda, and we have all documentation, including minutes and financials, as up-to-date as possible at the meeting. The level of service we offer buildings is what differentiates us from other firms. By going to these meetings, the boards gain the confidence that someone is watching." It is Greenbaum who calls the collaboration of efforts between managers and executives "Team MGRE."
Relating to a board is no problem for Goldstick or Greenbaum. "I was once a president of a co-op," says Goldstick, " so I have an appreciation for the difficulties of the job." Relating to the frustrations of board members is what prompted that hands-on style of MGRE’s executives. Greenbaum reiterates, "If there’s any question that can’t be answered by a property manager, we tell all of our clients to call me or to call Jim. If an issue doesn’t get resolved, they feel free to talk to any of us. It’s comforting for board members to be able to reach us. Or if there’s a financial question, they know they can call our controller, Cynthia Dubinski."
In addition, the firm offers full financial planning and advice. Says Goldstick, "If I can give an answer based on my 20 years in the industry, I can save the co-op a good deal of money on legal fees." He adds, "Both Steve and I are regulars on panels" for the co-op and condo industry.
Leo Schmid, president of the 287-unit, 27-building Flowerview Gardens Owners Corp. in Floral Park, Queens, has been more than satisfied with the services provided by MGRE. "They’ve managed our buildings for over nine years and we work well together. They’re responsive." Schmid continues, "Since they’ve been with us, we’ve refinanced the underlying mortgage, changed our landscapers, and saved money."
Like other buildings managed by MGRE, Flowerview Gardens was a success because of MGRE’s primary objective: setting an agenda. "We’re very goal oriented with boards," says Greenbaum. "We sit down with them and create goals for one year, two years and then for longer terms."
Flowerview was at one time spending $80,000 per year in private sanitation costs. MGRE was able to hurdle bureaucratic obstacles and get the town to pick up the trash. MGRE also restructured Flowerview’s underlying mortgage, and now $5,000 goes into the reserve fund every month from excess operating costs. In addition, Schmid says, "MGRE renegotiated our laundry room contract and got us more money, plus had the laundry rooms refurbished at no cost to us." According to Greenbaum, these successes are because the firm is "accountable and responsible."
Greenbaum cites the success of another MGRE-managed property which has been able to accomplish the litany of objectives on their agenda. "In the final interview with them, we set a laundry list of goals. Within a year, they’ve been able to accomplish everything on that list." Greenbaum states that the firm’s new mantra is "Set goals and reach them."
Goldstick believes that MGRE "brings a lot to the table" when hired to manage a property. "We think that the product we produce is of a superb quality."
Ms. Wagner is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.