Can we please have a civil board election this year?

A neighbor sent me an article last Wednesday about the election. No, not that election, this one — our upcoming coop election. This article quotes realtors and management professionals and even an attorney from East River’s own counsel about how coop board elections in NYC can get so dirty that what just passed for a presidential campaign would seem tame in comparison.

In one story, the managing agent ran off with the ballots to protect the incumbents. In another, two board members carried a playground grudge for decades. In another, a smear campaign against the board president led to accusations of Nazism and a defamation suit.

Sound familiar?

Since 2014, when our members urged us to run candidates to challenge the board incumbents, Cooperatively Yours has been a lightening rod. We’ve asked pointed questions, challenged coop orthodoxy, and exposed the thin skin of incumbents. We’ve also made neighbors feel harassed by flyers, turned peaceful gatherings into political rallies, and antagonized the status quo.

In return, the status quo has not sat still. They’ve smeared our candidates with anonymous flyers, belittled our efforts at dialogue, and mocked our defeat. In the end, many more shareholders are now participating in our annual election — a 40% increase in the past three years — but the whole thing feels dispiriting and ugly.

Will this year be any different? We hope so. We live here, just as you do, and we don’t want our elevators and lobbies and playgrounds to be places of malice and distrust. We will continue to ask questions, but we’ll try to lower the volume, and focus on the positive. We hope the other side sings a new tune too, and finds a more gracious way to win votes.

With that settled, I’m pleased to introduce you to our endorsed candidates for the board this year, Mary Jo Burke and Julian Swearengin. Mary Jo is an architect and a graduate of Columbia University’s Sustainability Management program. She served on the house committee and helped to establish the community garden behind building 1. Julian is an attorney and MBA with extensive experience serving on and advising corporate and non-profit boards. He also served a stint on the house committee here, helping to write the house committee newsletter and cooperator’s guide for new owners. They will both be keen advocates for transparency from the board and for greater opportunity for input from shareholders. Please give them your strong consideration.

If you’d like to support them, and Cooperatively Yours, you can do one thing right away: add your name to their campaign.