roperty management is a challenging field that appeals to quick- thinking, high energy individuals. Besides
excellent number crunching skills, a good property manager must also demonstrate a keen knowledge of crisis intervention, not to mention diplomacy and the stamina to endure round-the-clock availability. Every year since 1993 The New York Cooperator has recognized standout performers in the competitive property management arena. On May 15, at The Cooperator's 9th Annual Co-op and Condo Expo, Andrews Building Corporation and Cantor Real Estate joined the list of super achievers when they became recipients of this year's Leadership in Management Awards.
A Crisis Averted
One way to measure a property management company's excellence is by seeing how well it deals with a crisis. Last winter Manhattan-based Andrews Building Corporation was faced with a plumbing disaster that threatened to interrupt business at the popular Gotham Bar & Grill, a four-star restaurant, and disrupt the quality of life at the adjacent condo at 12 East 12th Street. Andrews averted the potential crisis quickly and efficiently, showing that it has what it takes to go above and beyond the call of duty. Besides the immediate task of repairing the physical structure, Andrews was also faced with the daunting challenge of balancing the needs of a commercial clientin this case a four-star restaurantwith those of the condo's residents. Andrews displayed excellent diplomatic and negotiation skills as it helped diffuse a stressful situation; then, it orchestrated a successful outcome which took into account everyone's needs.
Given the circumstances and delicacy of the situation, says Yanna Brandt, who has served as the condo's board president for the past four years, they handled it the best way they knew how. I've always had excellent communication with Gene, and have felt that he's responsive whenever I have complaints. Personally, I think he's terrific.
A Team Effort
According to Gene Andrews, president of Andrews Building Corporation and the on-site agent for the East 12th Street property, the situation at the Gotham Bar and Grill clearly called for a team approach. While Stephen Kessler, Andrews' director of management, was keeping an eye on things at the site, Andrews set the job up and played an intermediary role between the restaurant, the building and the plumbing outfit.
We had to get the restaurant to see that the work needed to be done immediately. We also had to get the board at the condo to see that the work should be done at night. If the work had been done during normal hours, Andrews explains, the restaurant would have been shut down for a day or two. And we needed to get the Gotham to agree to reimburse the board for the overtime required by the plumbing crew. After I talked to all parties to get a meeting of the minds, we were able to line everything up so the job could be done.
According to Kessler, the first sign that something was amiss came on Wednesday, January 31 when the building superintendent reported unusually intense heat in the Gotham's restrooms. At the same time, several building residents reported noxious odors which seemed to be emanating from their radiators. The next day the engineering division from Andrews' service company discovered signs of massive le ffb aking from steam return lines. The engineer couldn't tell if the leak was coming from under the floor of the restrooms or the kitchen.
Both would have posed major challenges, Kessler says. If under the floor of the kitchen, business would have been severely disrupted by making the repair while the restaurant was open for business. If in the floor of the restrooms, the potential loomed of destroying a recent $250,000 renovation. We found ourselves in an extremely sensitive position having to balance the needs and demands of the restaurant owners and building residents. After all necessary diagnostics had been done, the repair work began the following Monday evening, at midnight, when the restaurant had closed. The plumbing crew worked through the night, Kessler says, and the repair was successfully completed at approximately 1:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
A M-Don't Delay' Attitude
Andrews stresses that the property manager's primary function is to solve the problem. Our clear policy at Andrews Building Corp. is to put the effort, the manpower and the thought into solving the physical issue at handanything physical can be solved. We don't delay, and we don't overreact or take attitudes and positions that will lead to conflict.
Andrews adds that relations are often tense in a building that has both commercial and residential space. Part of the property manager's job is to make sure the tension doesn't get out of hand. There's no point in getting involved in a dispute, Andrews explains. It's better to channel the energy more efficiently by focusing on the physical problem. So, while Andrews was engaged in a phone marathon, getting everyone to agree on a schedule and plan of action, Kessler was at the site overseeing the job and maintaining an open line of communication between the different parties involved.
Steve stayed there about a day and a half, Andrews says. He made sure each side knew what was going on at every stage, and he kept everyone updated. People can get frustrated if no one is there watching the job get done. The decision to involve Jeff Bliss, an owner of the Gotham Bar and Grill, at all stages of the problem-solving process was key to the successful outcome. Andrews did a real good job solving the problem, says Bliss.
At a time when many co-ops are being hit with maintenance increases, Brooklyn-based Cantor Real Estate is a big hero in the eyes of its clients. Thanks to Cantor's vice president, Juan Sinnreich, who serves as executive manager of Philip Howard Apartments, a 640-unit co-op in Brooklyn, this property management company was actually able to give some funds back to its clients. Sinnreich clearly went above and beyond the call of duty when he collected over $55,000 in accrued interest on the property's escrow accounts. After we had discovered that we were successful, we systematically went building to building on all our accounts, adds president Mike Cantor. At least two other buildings received in excess of $10,000 each. Numerous credits have been made to escrow accounts.
Sinnreich and Cantor Real Estate were nominated for The Cooperator's Leadership in Management Award by Jack Korman, president of the board of directors at Philip Howard Apartments. Sinnreich has been an extraordinary property manager and a wonderful friend to the residents at our building, says Korman. He deserves to be recognized and commended.
Won't Take No For an Answer
Sinnreich appreciates the recognition and says, I'm happy to receive this award on behalf of my company. He became involved in his quest for the accrued interest quite by chance, and there's no doubt that a less persistent person would have dropped the whole matter before seeing a penny. Sinnreich's interest was sparked one day during a conversation with Philip Howard Apartments' board president Korman. Jack mentioned that he gets interest on the escrow for his house, Sinnreich explains. Then he asked me whether we were getting interest on the co-op's escrow account. This led to my c ffb alling the mortgage company which said that if we were supposed to get it, we would be getting it.
Luckily for the residents at Philip Howard Apartments, Sinnreich wasn't happy with this somewhat vague answer. The next step was to call the accountant who told Sinnreich that he didn't think the co-op was supposed to be getting any interest. I didn't like that answer either, Sinnreich says. So I called the attorney to review the matter. He wrote a letter to the mortgage company, whose lawyer wrote back saying that we'd already be getting it, if we were entitled to it. This just made Sinnreich dig deeper. Finally, he got the answer he had been looking for from the chairman of the New York State Banking Commission whose office researched the matter and found a law that no one was aware of. According to this obscure piece of legislation, the co-op was indeed entitled to receive over $55,000 in accrued interest on the property's escrow accounts.
Thanks to the unexpected windfall, Philip Howard Apartments was able to implement major capital improvements to the building without increasing maintenance fees or adding special assessments. People are delighted, says Korman, who has been a resident for 23 years. When our building was converted to a co-op eight years ago, the sponsor gave it a little spit and polish, but in a short period of time it looked like heck. At each general meeting the questions would come up, time and again, about what we would do about repairs and the problem was always money.
Korman and his fellow residents no longer have that problem. The common areas have been painted and tiled, and work is being done on the elevators. Carpeting is next on the agenda. Says Korman, Our building is undergoing a metamorphosis. Juan Sinnreich and Cantor Real Estate treat the building as if they own it. They watch every penny; but, if they've got to spend, they spend.
Cantor describes his star performer as a very persistent, diligent and conscientious managing agent who takes his job seriously. In this business you're on call eight days a week and 25 hours a day, Cantor says. Juan manages approximately 1,200 units in four Brooklyn buildings. He gets calls in the middle of the night and he's had to work through the wee hours of the morning. He also has excellent rapport with boards and residents, including both renters and shareholders. The buildings in our portfolio range in size from 21 units to 640. His efforts are an example of what our agents and staff can do for all our clients.
Ms. Mosher is Associate Editor of The New York Cooperator.