I used to be on the board and know a lot about my neighbors' finances, thanks to their co-op applications. When I see people in the building, a number pops up above their head. How can I stop seeing dollar signs every time I run into one of my neighbors? Signed, Former Board Member
Dear Former Member,
Obviously, you can't not know what you know. You must, however, remember that being a board member requires two important elements: Transparency and confidentiality. A conflict in terms perhaps but ultimately possible. Anything that goes on in the building and affects the shareholders should be shared, i.e. the budget, rising fuel prices, staff issues. But, the personal finances of shareholders must be kept private.
When our board is finished with a package, we all make sure they are shredded. You certainly wouldn't want anyone knowing your net worth unless you were the one telling them. Similarly, you wouldn't put in the building newsletter (if you have such a thing) that the people in 3F are having threesomes or that the gentleman in 8B has a drinking problem and the doormen need to usher him into his apartment on some nights. To say the least, it is a balancing act.
So, the next time you see one of those neighbors whose fortunes you are so aware of, concentrate on looking them in the eye. Maybe then the dollar signs will disappear. And under no circumstances should you ask the highest rollers for a loan.
Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.