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Board Holds First Open Meeting of 2009

During the first open meeting with shareholders of the year on April 17, the North Shore Towers Board of Directors highlighted some its accomplishments since being elected.

Board President Bob Ricken began by touching on some of these accomplishments using a PowerPoint presentation.

First, Ricken said that the transparency of Board work has been increased. This has included Ricken writing a letter following all boardroom meetings to distribute to shareholders and writing letters to appear in both newspapers. Another component of this has been responding to all letters and e-mails from residents, and sharing them during Board meetings.

Ricken also mentioned the passing of the resolution to extend the length of the proprietary lease, a measure that he says means even more now that there is a recession.

New roofs were put on above the VIP Room and indoor pool, Ricken said. He added that this now means the only roof that has not been replaced is the one over Towers on the Green, which he said still has two or three years of life left to it. Once that has been done, Ricken said that the Towers will have 15 or 20 years to “breathe easily” in regards to the roofs.

The renovation of the Building One garage ramp has been completed and bids are now being analyzed for work on the Building Two garage ramp.

The Board is also in the process of re-examining the policy of not allowing reverse mortgages following inquiries from residents. He said that every Board member has an area to look into so that they can determine how allowing reverse mortgages could impact the corporation.

Ricken said that both the North Shore Towers Courier and Tower Times will be invited in for interviews to determine which should be the community newspaper. He said that the question that will be posed is what the paper the paper can give to the Towers at zero cost to the residents.

In regards to paving at the West Gate area, Ricken said that they are currently waiting for engineer drawings and will then put the project out to bid.

Ricken also said that negotiations have begun with Time Warner and Verizon. He said a committee is working on the matter and that the co-op is looking for reductions in cost.

Following suggestions received from residents, Ricken noted that the Towers has started to modernize the gym. He said most of the suggestions had to do with the décor, time of classes and expanding or eliminating classes.

On Wednesdays in July and August, Ricken said there will once again be free admission to the pool for a maximum of four visitors.

At the request of residents, there have also been changes made to the food booth in the VIP Room, including adding a yogurt machine, changes to make getting food faster and replacing the chain fence with something more attractive.

Ricken said that the Towers has re-contracted with Golf Professional Bob Guido. He described Guido as “a gift,” adding that last year he earned the corporation $122,000 through outside golf outings.

In addition, Ricken said that the Towers hired a new tennis professional, Rick Bates.

Another topic discussed by Ricken was that of the sponsored golf membership. He said that currently there are 48 sponsored members and that there is a waiting list for more. Ricken said he was pleased that the Board has taken this initiative and that the corporation will have extra revenue because of it.

Ricken said that the no pet policy was voted on by the Board. In a 7-2 vote it was decided to maintain the present policy.

During the meeting, Ricken also explained why he feels it is important for the cooperative to have a reserve fund. He said that it helps guard against certain maintenance increases in the event of an emergency, funds the five-year capital plan, and empowers the Board to reduce things such as rebates and maintenance.

As the other Board members presented their committee reports, they expanded on topics brought up by Ricken while informing residents of other projects as well.

Finance Committee Chairman Mort Gitter said that, for the first three months of 2009, the co-op’s budget is “pretty much on course.” He said that revenue is slightly off by less than one percent. This is because electric charges were less than projected and there was a decline in income from investments. Gitter also said that operating expenses have decreased by three percent from what was budgeted.

Gitter said that, on January 1, the city rescinded the seven percent modification of the assessment that had been in effect. He said that the increased assessed value that would begin on July 1 was $162 million, up from $146 million.

After analyzing the assessments of other buildings in New York, and Queens specifically, the Towers noticed that the other buildings received far more modest increases. Gitter said that the Board has gotten some political representatives and attorneys involved to try to help the situation.

In regards to the Country Club, Gitter said that it is operating on a budgetary level that is consistent to previous years and that income and expenses are where they should be.

Gitter said that, at the close of 2008, there were approximately 285 golfers. So far for the 2009 season, there are 173, including the sponsored members. Noting that there are about 160 golfers that have not renewed their membership yet, Gitter encouraged those who have not signed up yet to do so.

Also, Gitter explained that, although a 30 cents per share assessment was initially going to be imposed on shareholders, it has been lowed to 20 cents per share and will be payable June 1.

Phyllis Goldstein, the chair of the Screening Committee, shared information on apartment sales for the year so far. From January of this year through the middle of April, nine apartments were sold for an average sale price of $413,889 and average share price of $141.97.

During the same time frame last year, nine apartments were also sold. However, the average sale price was $459,994 and the average share price was $158.78.

Goldstein said that one reason for the decrease is that more apartments on the market are estate apartments, which she said tend to sell at lower prices in order to settle the estate.

Between January and April, Goldstein also said there have been 14 sublets, up from three sublets during the same span in 2008.

Goldstein pointed out that all sublet residents are required to be Country Club members. She also noted that the corporation receives 10 cents per share per month from sublets.

Goldstein also spoke about the North Shore Towers web site, which she said is now getting 80 hits a day. She said that the pages that are being visited the most are for country club, lifestyle, amenities, apartments and contact information. Goldstein also said that there is a resident log-in page where the movie schedule, golf and tennis times, aerobics schedule, monthly calendar, LIRR and express bus schedules, and important phone numbers can be viewed. Meetings are also filmed and posted for residents to see.

Capital Improvements Committee Chair Herb Cooper said that the smoke detector system is being installed and that it is expected to be operational by the end of June.

Cooper also said that a subcommittee has been looking into possible alternative energy, including wind, solar panels, and electric car battery charging stations.

Also, Cooper said that a study is being conducted to determine if it is more advantageous to the Towers to buy its power or continue to generate its own. He said that the committee is investigating ways to increase the efficiency of the plant as well.

Claire Levitan, who heads the House & Grounds Committee, said that the carpeting in the movie theatre has been replaced and that the committee wants to complete the renovation with comfortable and adequate seating.

In her report, Levitan also said that the committee met with Brickman Horticulturists to discuss ideas for the grounds, and that they are exploring different design ideas for the outer lobby areas.

Levitan also addressed the team effort that involved the House & Grounds Committee and Capital Improvement Committee to take care of leaks in the garage area. She said that there is an increasing need to have a professional company do repairs and increase drains necessary in alleviating the leaking.

The next Board member to address residents was Marvin Rosenberg, who chairs the Legal Committee and Public Relations & Publicity Committee. He began by saying that the Board has passed a new rule that, during the Board of Directors election, allows for an automatic recount if candidates are “within certain perimeters” of each other.

Although efforts to reach out to a diverse group have been postponed until there is “some relaxation of the present housing crisis,” Rosenberg said that the cooperative will continue the efforts in the near future by holding a regional brokers, real estate attorney and mortgage lenders conference.

Rosenberg also noted that, through the efforts of committee member Gary Zwetchkenbam, the Towers was “able to receive considerable publicity through The Queens Courier,” that included a banner ad on the paper’s site that, when clicked on, took visitors to the Towers’ site.

“This is a great public service that’s been rendered to us and we are very appreciative,” Rosenberg said.

Political Action Committee Chair Murray Lewinter was the last Board member to speak. He said that he expects to bring in many speakers who can discuss issues of interest such as health plans, social security, financial recovery and other political and social matters.

Lewinter also addressed concerns that have been raised about losing the express bus. He assured everyone that it is not on the schedule to be eliminated.

“However, I will be speaking to the mayor’s people and other elected officials to continue our service,” he said.

Near the end of the meeting, Ricken said that when he first was elected president he wanted to create a more positive environment by being inclusive of all groups. He went on to say that he mentioned to his fellow Board members that he wanted to meet with the Shareholder’s Association “to create a vehicle” for its members to have input.

“Most of the Board members were against my wishes to reach out to the Shareholder’s Association,” Ricken said.

Ricken said that the comments he got from the Board were that there is a small amount of people in the association who make all the decisions, that they do not elect their president, they refuse to indicate how many residents they represent, and they only write negatively and never have a good word to say.

Another comment that Ricken said was made was that they write to papers and elected officials using the name North Shore Towers Shareholder’s Association, which gives the incorrect impression that they are representing all residents. Ricken also said that the previous comments from the association’s members were viewed as being angry, destructive and condescending.

“The Board reminded me that the only true representative of North Shore Towers is thus elected Board because we’re elected by everyone,” Ricken said.

Regardless of what was said, Ricken said that he still met with the Shareholder’s Association and its leaders to discuss their concerns. He said that Board member Claire Levitan was appointed to be a liaison between the Board and Shareholder’s Association in the hopes of getting constructive input. Ricken also noted that, without requesting the Board members to do so, each Shareholder’s Association executive member was placed on a committee.

However, Ricken said that, based on the actions of the association during the last few months, he “must confess my attempt to work cooperatively with them was a mistake and the Board was right.”

“Their recent letters and actions have demonstrated that their objective is to spread misinformation, discontent and hurt the image of North Shore Towers,” Ricken said.

During the meeting, Ricken gave specific examples to illustrate his points. He said that association president Barbara Leonardi held a meeting raising health concerns over the roof antennas, which were proven untrue. Ricken said she later complained that the Board did not get more money.

Ricken said that Leonardi then sent a letter to the local Community Board, politicians and Homeland Security saying that aerials on the roof were making the Towers a major terrorist target.

“This did not help our relationship with the Floral Park community,” he said.

He also said that she has walked down the hallways at saying that she is afraid to live at the Towers.

Ricken expressed concerns that people have read articles that Leonardi has written with misinformation and “are going to believe these false allegations.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, shareholders were given the opportunity to ask questions.

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