Annual meeting recap: food fight!

Monday’s annual meeting was very well attended and lively. The usual order of business was amended by a vote from the floor to move the Q&A to the front of the agenda which gave time for more questions while the auditorium was still full; the questions were interrupted to introduce the candidates for board and house committee and allow for voting at 8:40, and then resumed at 9:00. By 9:45 the president Gary Altman, the manager Harold Jacob, and the House Committee chair Jeffrey Super gave their reports. The meeting was adjourned shortly before 10:30.

(I apologize for not taking particularly good notes, but I can paint in broad strokes what was raised, and hopefully some of you can fill in the details as comments below.)

  • The first question was about the federal discrimination lawsuit the coop now faces — particularly, how much have the coop’s lawsuits against dog owners and defense of the federal case cost us? Legal fees can be seen in our annual report to have skyrocketed, but how much of that can be attributed to the dogsuits? The corporation council Ezra Goodman answered that because the case was open there was very little he could say about it; Mr. Jacob answered that because some of the legal fees will be repaid if the coop wins, and some penalties may be covered by insurance if we lose, that an accurate number is not available.
  • Another question pertained to upcoming capital expenses — why does the coop not provide in the annual report an estimate of future repairs and replacement? Mr. Jacob answered that there are no expected major capital expenses for the next ten years; he said the roofs are 25-year roofs with expected 35-year lifespan, the elevators do not need replacing, Local Law 11 brickwork was completed last year.
  • One cooperator asked about why a problem she had with her pipes had been so badly handled by the maintenance staff. She recited a list of dates and times when the staff had been unresponsive or uncooperative. Bob Prescott, the head of maintenance, explained that the problem she had had was a time-consuming one to fix, and apologized for the bad service she received.
  • Another question (from me) was about the use of and revenue from our common areas and commercial spaces. I asked if, in order to determine whether more outside revenue could be raised, management would put release a comprehensive survey of square footage, income, and usage of all the areas available for lease or common use. Mr. Altman said it would be considered.
  • There was a question about the parking lots — had anyone explored the possibility of adding spots either by installing lifts or redrawing the lines in a more efficient way, or by leasing space on Delancey right under the bridge. Mr. Altman said that those various options had been explored in the past and, for various reason, had all been found lacking; therefore, there is no plan to increase parking capacity.
  • One cooperator had a different maintenance issue, with the windows used to enclose her balcony. She had been told that a particular contractor was the only one authorized to do the job; that contractor had done sub-par work and was now no longer in business to make necessary repairs. Shulie Wollman from the management office explained that the policy of requiring certain contractors was no longer in effect.

You might assume from the above paragraphs that the evening was a dry and uneventful affair. In fact it was as rowdy and bawdy as burlesque. There were catcalls and curses from the audience, pantomime and storytelling from the stage, and a constant buzz of barely contained hostility. At one point Mr. Jacob, interrupted again by a cooperator, asked in frustration, “Why won’t you let me talk?”

“Because I don’t like you!” he was told.

Mr. Jacob replied, “That’s the first honest thing you’ve ever said.” Later he characterized that kind of hate as “what ISIS does.”

So you get the idea.

Every year I’m equal parts amused and disgusted by the show. Of course it’s fun to watch people you know in a food fight: it’s messy and meaningless. But our bad behavior has consequences. Straightforward questions are met with pre-emptive obfuscation, honest answers are called lies, and instead of getting together once a year to solve common challenges, too many people are just trying to land a blow. So we all walk around here for another year as though it’s us vs. them, holding it in until next year’s annual meeting when we do it all again.

Let me know below what I missed, and what you think we can do to make next year different.