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We had a fascinating conversation recently with Roberta Axelrod, who sits on 10 New York City-area co-op and condo boards in her role as a sponsor’s representative for Time Equities.
As a close-up observer of board politics for around three decades, she notes that the most successful boards make a habit of deciding issues through consensus.
“Some boards get into having alliances, with one group voting as a bloc, and ultimately when that happens the board loses and the building loses,” she says.
“It becomes more about one group versus another group, more about party politics than the good of the nation.”
Done well, the governing process of a co-op or condo may be cumbersome, but it’s ultimately more reflective of residents’ interests.
“It requires you to have the input of a number of people and to meet in person,” says Axelrod. “Then you talk and express and have a discussion about what’s good and bad, and rethink things. If you take these views seriously, you will probably address concerns that most residents have, so you wind up with something representative rather than a power play.”
That pays off in the long run, she says. An issue decided on a 4-3 margin is just as likely to go the other way when board is re-elected—not exactly conducive to building stability, continuity and cohesion.
She says she's currently sitting on the of a building whose penthouse owners do not want the roof deck's size or hours expanded.
“The residents of the building want to use the space, and if they take an attitude that they don’t care about their neighbors, you’re going to have a very tense and uncomfortable atmosphere,” she says.
A combative approach can also be an expensive one.
“Ultimately you have a happier building where there’s less tension and less likelihood of lawsuits, which cost the building a lot of money even if you win one,” she notes.