At eight o'clock on a weekday morning, you won't find Peter Grech hustling to catch a train or waiting in line for the bus. Nor will you find him snug in his bed, dreaming the morning away. Grech is a resident manager for the Alfred, a 224-unit condominium on West 61st Street. Mornings, from eight to nine am, once he's finished his building rounds, you can find Grech in the lobby, shaking hands and taking down problems tenants are experiencing.
I'm there just so people can see me while they're leaving for work. They tell me about their problems and I listen to them, he says. While Grech often hears complaints, compliments are few. Even when he goes out of his way, helping tenants whose problems don't technically fall under the building's responsibility, a word of thanks may never come.
Which is a shame, according to industry experts who cite the power of a positive word or two, which can do wonders for improving the relationship between the building's superintendent and its residents. Most resident managers feel they frequently bear the brunt of negative attitudes or a general feeling of ungratefulness. When it comes to dealing with board members, this feeling can build up to resentment and stifle the board's ability to communicate effectively with the building's resident manager (RM), the title many supers are beginning to prefer.
In addition to feeling under-appreciated, resident managers have expressed confusion over who's in charge, especially when board members and managing agents give conflicting instructions. This can slow down or even halt any hope of creating a working dialogue between the board and the super.
Some supers refuse to work for co-ops because of conflicting orders, explains Dick Koral, director of the Apartment House Institute at New York City's Technical College. They're told one thing by board members, then another by the managing agent. Often the confusion is not only the fault of board/management clashes; it can also be the result of different board members handing out conflicting instructions. At one of his previous jobs, says Grech, I ran into plenty of problems with one board member telling to me to keep the lobby window curtains drawn and another saying I should open them. This would happen a lot and it got to the point where I wasn't sure what to do.