Until you factor in the people who make up the community and culture within it, a building is only a structural space. Residents, owners, maintenance workers, vendors, superintendents and porters all contribute to this culture, but few elements have as much effect on the overall success and vitality of a co-op or condo building as the actions and dedication of the members of its board. While it is true that the majority of boards do their best to fulfill the duties of governance and effective administration, a board that goes above and beyond the requirements of fulfilling simple fiduciary duty and does its part to make a building or association the best it can possibly be deserves special notice.
What kinds of initiatives and focus can distinguish functional boards from truly exemplary board leadership? What traits do these most successful boards have in common? What can a board or individual on a board do to turn around a building in distress, or straighten out a dysfunctional board? Effective communication and awareness of the inner workings of the property are some of the first things mentioned when property management pros are asked what sets some boards apart.
It may seem like it goes without saying, but one of the common traits of highly functional boards is a proactive, hands-on approach. Daniel Sabillon of Daniel Sabillon, LLC, a property management company in Brooklyn, says, “I have a tremendous amount of respect for all board members. It can be a thankless job, with so much stress and responsibility. One board in particular, led by board chairman Gregory Vaksman, is Seabreeze Plaza Condominiums, located on 3111 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. They meet monthly like your typical board, but aside from that, they put in extra time and are in constant communication with management, the super and his staff, and the residents. They like to be as transparent as possible and welcome input from all unit owners.” That, says Sabillon, goes a very long way toward smooth day-to-day operations, positive board-resident relations, and a better sense of community overall.
Disaster Response: Short-and Long-Term Solutions
Another way that boards reveal themselves to be exceptional is in the management of unanticipated setbacks and disaster management. In recent years, this has become an increasing reality for properties with close proximity to a coastline. Sabillon says this is another area where the Seabreeze Plaza board proved their mettle and stepped up when their building needed the initiative most.
“They have had to endure some rough years since Hurricane Sandy in 2012,” says Sabillon. “The building is a beachfront property. Needless to say, there was a great amount of damage. The [board] pulled together and had to make some tough and unpopular decisions, but in the end it was in the best interest of the building. They were able to restore the building quickly, and the residents were able to get on with their lives. They have spent the last four years in court trying to recover financially from this incident, and have just recently brought some financial stability to the building once again.”