A letter was slipped under my door the other day from the board that I left in despair last November.
Even before the letter reached some shareholders, what was presumed to be the board’s decision on closing this year’s budget gap caused a brouhaha that even found its way to Facebook. (“Brouhaha” may be the funniest word in the English language, no pun in intended. Well, maybe.)
Given that my building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is of modest size, the level vituperation among individuals who inevitably will pass in the lobby and meet in an elevator would astonish me if I didn’t know too much about co-op politics.
Came the first email from a neighbor:
I am writing to you to inform you of the . . . Board’s decisions on raising maintenance AND levying assessments (you’ll see the letter when you get home tonight).
I think we need to STOP THIS … but not sure how.
Can we insist the reserve fund be used??
Can we demand that some other costs be cut (doormen or their hours) ??
Do we try to overthrow the board??
What are our options?
There followed several messages (on Facebook) from others. This is the second:
“. . . The only way to stop them from doing stuff we don’t like is to vote them out and vote in a new board.”
Then, a former board president weighed in at length in an e-mail I am taking the liberty of excerpting:
What in the name of sanity are you talking about? There is no maintenance increase , instead the shortfall in our taxes is being implemented as an assessment because it appears shareholders had expressed some preference for that.
Sure, there is a solution — move out of New York City. . .
You want to overthrow the board? What possible good will that do?. .
So unless you happen to own your own oil well and would like to sell us fuel oil at a discount, or unless you have a hot line to Michael Bloomberg and can get us a sweetheart deal on our taxes, I don’t know anything else that I can suggest other than moving to a warmer climate and another city.
And please, before sending out alarms like this, read the letter more carefully.
The original e-mailer replied:
Contrary to your assumption I can read.Our maintenance has already been increased, recently,the board decided to not impose another increase until 2011But rather levy assessments.I can’t believe your arrogance at suggesting I move out of New York City rather than question the board of MY co-opThank you for your well thought out , yet mean spirited,response.
There are only a couple of problems with the first two e-mails above and the two notably ascerbic exchanges that followed.
First, the board (for which I have no love, as I have indicated in two earlier posts), actually wrote that it had made the (ill-advised) decision to impose and assessment instead of a maintenance increase as the third writer related. Actually, the first writer may have meant that, but his prose sure was muddled.
Second, the reason the board is so inadequate is that no one else wanted to take on its responsibilities. So, even if the board could be removed before the annual election in June, the likelihood of anyone stepping forward to fill the void is minimal. That the board cannot be removed by coup would be another obstacle.
Third, the venomous tone of unbridled anger.
Fourth, the final e-mail skates over additional facts for reasons that elude me. For example, the writer (who started the chain) incorrectly implies that maintenance was increased later than the annual increase one year ago. Not incidentally, this neighbor of mine told me categorically that he would not serve on the board when I asked him to join even as an associate member without a vote or responsibilities.
So goes the sort of battle that too many boards face–ill informed and ill mannered exchanges of e-mails rather than well meant and well considered constructive criticism.
Moreover, those who lobby potshots seem to enjoy that activity far more than shouldering the burdens of working on the board.
The whole brouhaha would be laughable if it were not so sorry.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022