My husband and I weren’t at all worried about our board interview for a 110-unit co-op on Plaza Street in Prospect Heights. My dad, who owns a co-op in Brooklyn Heights, assured us that once you get as far as a board interview, there’s not much that can go wrong.
He told me to expect a friendly reception, mostly focused on what skills we might bring to the operation of the building — my work background is in real estate and urban planning.
So, we felt ready for just about any question that the board could send our way. But, once we were there, face to face with them, one member threw us a curve ball: “What would you do if there was a major disaster and you had to pitch in $50,000 immediately to pay for it?”
Why would someone ask such a seemingly off-the-wall question? We found out that the woman who brought it up had a son who lived in Northern Manhattan where the retaining wall at Castle Village Coops collapsed onto the Henry Hudson Parkway.
After the resulting pile of stone and earth was cleaned up, the owners had to come up with huge fees for repairs. It was pretty clear from our financials that there was no way that we were going to be able to sit down and write a check for $50,000.
Our first answer was that we'd probably take out a loan. When that didn't seem to settle the question, we offered the option of having my parents become the guarantors for the maintenance. Bingo. This won the board over. We were thrilled that we “made the cut” and moved in.
As it turned out, our five years in the co-op were a misery. Although the building claimed to be pet-friendly, we got lots of complaints about our dog. Basically the board was full of micro-managers who were unwilling to be flexible on a host of issues.
I had thought that with my background I was going to make a real contribution to the life of the building. Clearly, I was wrong. One of the happiest days of my life was in 2010 when we moved out to a rental in Park Slope just ten blocks away.