This year's presidential face-off may, in fact, be the most contentious we've seen on the national stage, but some New York City co-op board elections "make the Hillary-Trump [competition] look like preschool," says Dean Roberts, a lawyer with Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus (fyi, a Brick sponsor).
Often the most heated board elections have to do with an upstart who wants change in the building, says Brian Lewis, a broker with Halstead who used to sit on his own Upper West Side building's board.
Among the most hotly debated issues, are changes to pet policies ("dogs are people, too," he says), redesigns of the lobby and/or hallways, and maintenance charge changes, says Steve Wagner of Wagner Berkow (also a Brick sponsor).
Below, some crazy stories straight from those who've witnessed them:
A co-op coup
"I've seen instances when, at the annual meeting, the board president gets ready to announce that it's time to elect the officers and other board members hand him or her proxy votes saying that the building's decided to go in a different direction. Usually, he or she is handed a gift certificate to Per Se or something, and just looks shocked," says Lewis. "That's a coup."
Lewis says often it's about the new guard vs. the old guard . "A lot of times the newbies are asking 'what have you been doing all this time?' and the old-timers have to explain that the building used to be different and that they kept the building safe when the neighborhood wasn't. People need to appreciate that," he says. "That said, it's healthy to have a change every once in a while, too."
Hanging chads—co-op style
"Most large co-ops will use a professional ballot company for elections, but one that I worked with didn't do that," says Roberts. "The people who volunteered to count the ballots were elderly women who were well-meaning but not very skilled. It took three hours to get the numbers done and we had a two-way tie for the last open seat. The next day, I spent six hours with the ladies, and they realized they forgot to count an entire folder's worth of votes the day before. Now, instead of two people tied for first place, we had three," says Roberts, who told them they could hold a run-off election, but pending that, should see if they could broker a deal. Luckily, they did.
Roberts once worked with a co-op board where two of its members were arch-enemies. "These two women were on the board together and fought for years. It was truly affecting the board’s ability to function," he says. The two were running against one another and each had their minions. When Roberts finally asked what the reason for the anger between these women was, he found out that one of the women's daughters had beaten up the others on a playground in third grade. Said daughters were now married with kids.
Roberts helped mediate the situation and eventually brought them back together. Tears ensued. "It was a like a reality show," he says.