As Tower residents ring in the New Year, Board President Bob Ricken sat with the North Shore Towers Courier to reflect on the past year’s successes while looking ahead to the future of the co-op.
For the third consecutive year, residents can relish in the fact that there will be no increases in maintenance or Country Club dues.
Ricken attributes this mainly to the rise in apartment sales this year, which landed the co-op major headlines in the city’s most prominent daily newspapers.
The New York Times featured North Shore Towers on February 20 as “one of the strongest sellers among luxury co-op buildings in New York City.” Soon after, on August 19, the Towers stood out as one of the “best places to live in New York,” in an article published by the Daily News. The four-page spread boasted the facility’s amenities and even its lively history.
“It was probably more positive than I could have even been,” Ricken said. “These kinds of things really enhance the image of North Shore Towers.”
According to Ricken, apartment sales have increased a little more than 25 percent, with 98 sales last year and 125 this year.
“What is important about that is we far exceeded what we budgeted for our flip tax,” he said. “That helped us keep down maintenance, and we had a large amount of money for flip tax because we had those 125 sales.”
Ricken said the work of the Political Action Committee also helped to keep costs down.
This year, Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, Councilmember Mark Weprin, City Speaker Christine Quinn, and two-time visitor State Senator Tony Avella came to speak at the co-op.
“Many of these politicians came to [Presidents Co-op Council] meetings and helped let city officials be aware that we have an inequity in our tax structure,” Ricken said. “And that was indicated this year when our tax rate was lower than we expected.”
Along with a total six-member Country Club increase from 2010, Ricken expressed that he was pleased with several other accomplishments throughout the year — including the annual Board of Directors election, which saw incumbents Phyllis Goldstein, Murray Lewinter, Phil Plafker and Bob Ricken re-elected. They will each serve another two-year term after running unopposed.
“I don’t believe that’s an indication that there’s lethargy among the people who live here,” Ricken said. “I think it’s an indication that they’re very satisfied with what the Board is doing. I’m very proud of the accomplishments of this Board.”
Ricken said he’s also pleased with continuous efforts in improving communication between the Board and residents. In order to keep the community on top of what goes on behind closed board room doors, Ricken said he slips letters under residents’ doors right after the meeting, so they won’t have to wait a month to hear important news.
He also said second on the agenda after reviewing the previous board meeting minutes is reading letters that residents have submitted — whether they are suggestions, criticisms, angry or positive feedback.
Ricken said the Board has also begun utilizing Power Point presentations during open meetings in order to pass along information to residents in a clearer manner.
“In other words, we’ve been extremely transparent, and there are very few surprises now for residents,” Ricken said. “One of the things that the Board is most gratified with is that the tone of the meetings is more positive, and the feedback from residents has been equally positive.”
The optimism may have also stemmed from the completion of several major projects this year, Ricken said.
Due to the high amount of money in reserve funds — which Ricken said is now in the area of $18 million — Tower residents now have a new chimney stack, which replaced one that was rotted over decades of use; new ramps; new rugs and logos in the entranceways; new doors in each of the buildings; revamped gardens throughout the community; improvements in the VIP Room, including fixing the men’s and women’s bathrooms and switching food vendors; the installation of the new pool room downstairs in the County Club; new furniture for the indoor pool and new pieces of equipment in the gym.
Looking to 2012, there will be several more items added to the agenda, along with replacing generators, which Ricken said is currently in a “long and very intense planning process.”
Residents and their families saw the importance of the generators when several storms pummeled through the region in 2011.
“We’ve had significant storms this year — not only with snowstorms, but there was a bit of an earthquake and there was also Hurricane Irene,” Ricken said. “It was gratifying to have about 350 of our residents’ relatives sleeping over because they didn’t have electricity in Queens or Nassau County.”
The co-op never lost power during these storms, Ricken said.
Ricken then complimented and thanked the staff, management and vendors for being on top of any possible storm damage.
“I’ve never received as many positive comments from our community about the job that they have done with snow removal and just keeping the place in an immaculate condition,” Ricken said. “It’s incredible waking up after a massive snow storm and find that all you see outside is black top.”
In 2012, the Towers’ two biggest contracts are up for review, meaning major upcoming projects include deciding which management and security companies to hire.
Currently, the co-op’s management company is the Charles H. Greenthal Management Corp.
“Even if we’re happy with our management company, we believe that we should always go out and interview other firms,” Ricken said, adding that co-op officials are presently interviewing management companies and will make a choice within the next couple of months.
The co-op will also go out for a new mortgage in 2012.
“Hopefully, with mortgage rates being lower, we’ll be able to save a lot of money in the future,” Ricken said. “The biggest challenge is always to maintain the finances of the co-op.
“You always have to plan for the future. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. My favorite quote has always been, ‘If you coast, you can only go downhill.’ We always have to have a focus on the future, on maintaining and improving everything we have. That’s the principle by which we budget and do long-range planning.”