Tag Archives: campaign 2015

Thank you! (from Jim, Michael, Ted, Fath, Julian, and Mike)

We’d like to extend an overdue thank-you to those of you who supported our campaign for the board of directors and house committee earlier this month.

We’d also like to offer congratulations to the winners — Ellen Gentilviso, Richard Kenny, Tommy Schlanger, and John Sotomayor.

The experience we had talking with cooperators about the future of East River was immensely gratifying, and each of us enjoyed meeting new neighbors and engaging old friends.

In particular, there were dozens of volunteers who helped reach out to shareholders, and 120 of you whose public endorsement meant a great deal to us. Thank you!

The high turnout for this year’s election is enormously encouraging. We hope these conversations will continue, and that the negative accusations thrown against some of us in the closing week of the campaign will not discourage others from participating in the election process. A community like ours deserves a lively, open debate about the policies that guide us.

Cooperatively yours,

Jim Keenan
Michael Marino
Ted Pender
Faith Schreier
Julian Swearengin
Mike Turner

Board president stays classy

Happy holidays to the vast majority of you.
Happy holidays to the overwhelming majority of you.
Board president Gary Altman distributed a memo today in which he (a) thanks all board candidates for their participation, (b) congratulates the winners, (c) bemoans the lack of competition in the house committee election, and (d) lets slip that Enemies of the Coop have infiltrated the highest level of power at East River.

Altman’s non sequitur send-off:

“The overwhelming majority of the Board of Directors remain committed to always working tirelessly to build up, and never tear down, our cooperative.”

Who exactly are the board members Altman has identified as cooperative vandals? He’s too classy to name names; the policy he prefers is innuendo.

I’m going to go waaaay out on a limb here and suggest that Altman took exception to a letter distributed last month by board members Lee Berman and Peter Herb, “Even directors are kept in the dark.” In that letter, Berman and Herb spoke out about how the overwhelming majority of directors — that is, all nine beside them — have enabled some irresponsible operational habits: monthly financial reports are not provided regularly; the budget, three months late, is approved with no discussion; and major policy shifts are passed with back-of-the-envelope analysis.

Those are specific charges, with which I assume Altman disagrees — if so, I’d like to hear him refute them on their merits and not resort to thinly veiled attacks on the character and motives of Berman and Herb.

Let’s look at the bigger picture here. There are 5,000 people living at East River, and not all of us agree on every single thing. We don’t have to, no one should expect us to. What we should expect is that those disagreements happen with as much adult-sized integrity as we can muster, using respectful words to soften our provocations. Challenging questions incite discussion, not riot; wanting to build the coop up in a different way is not the same as wanting to tear it down.

Incumbent slate wins big in board election

Counting the ballots and proxies concluded just under an hour ago, and the winners are Ellen Gentilviso, Richard Kenny, John Sotomayor, and Tommy Schlanger.

Turnout was strong again, comparable to last year, around 950 shareholders. Winners picked up between 526 and 572 votes; the Cooperatively Yours slate came in well behind, with 356 – 380 votes.

All four house committee candidates won by unanimous consent at the annual meeting and votes for those seats were not tallied.

Update: There were some additional general proxy ballots discovered Thursday morning that had not been counted Wednesday night. They did not change the outcome, though the total votes that should be posted today will be a higher than the numbers above.

Anonymous smears are an insult to you as much as they are to us

Dear Neighbors,

The unsigned letter distributed throughout the coop since Thanksgiving is more than an attempt to damage our campaign — it’s a challenge to your conscience.

The authors of this attack want you to be afraid, or confused, or disgusted. Ask yourself, is this the best argument they can make for why the incumbents should be returned to office again? And, if it is, why not sign their names? To ask the question is to answer it.

We will not be intimidated by slander, and neither should you.

  • Jim Keenan and Mike Turner are real estate professionals, and both agreed to and signed an unprecedented conflict of interest statement written by East River’s corporate counsel.
  • Mike does not list with AirBnB or any other service and has never sublet his apt.
  • Jim’s issue with Stuy Town is a private matter with his family and has no bearing on the coop.

Our campaign has been based on policy disagreements, not personal ones.

  • We believe the current board majority is increasing our debt at a dangerous rate. The coop now owes $25,000,000 — that’s a $15,000 maintenance increase for each of you that the board just hasn’t told you about yet.
  • We want security taken more seriously. Last week’s rape at the East River bandshell is a wake-up call to repair broken locks, security cameras, and lights around our property, and to crack down on deliverymen who keep keys to the coop.
  • We think the recent change in sublease policy will dramatically reduce our income as owners are encouraged to rent instead of sell. The policy needs to be reexamined.

Do not let yourself be manipulated by anonymous smears. Vote to reaffirm the guiding principles of cooperative living.

Cooperatively yours,

James Keenan
Faith Schreier
Julian Swearengin
Mike Turner

P.S. It’s not too late to counter hateful anonymous attacks with open-minded, respectful policy-making. You can still vote! Come to the annual meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 pm, or return a general proxy to one of us or our delegates before then.

Even directors are kept in the dark

A message from East River Board Members Lee Berman and Peter Herb.

Dear Neighbors,

We know many cooperators are concerned about East River’s closed-door policy-making. But the hard truth we have learned in the year since you elected us to the board is that, when it comes to essential information and analysis, even directors are kept in the dark.

  • At only half our board meetings have we seen even basic financial reports, and those were a month or more out of date. We were the only two directors who asked for current financials.
  • The budget was presented to the board three months late and we were given only ten minutes to look it over. That budget contains inflated flip-tax forecasts that will leave us in a $1.5 million hole unless the real estate market heats up again. And the budget is missing the huge expenses for laundry room repairs — at least $500,000 not accounted for at all. Yet we were the only two directors to protest the last-minute vote.
  • A new sublease policy passed with only back-of-the envelope analysis. Endless sublets will reduce first-time sales and cut into our flip-tax revenue, which accounts for 20% of our income. We were the only two directors who asked for a more thorough analysis.

Now we know that only two directors on a board of eleven is not enough to bring about positive change. We need four more forward-thinking directors to preserve all the things we love about East River while strengthening our financial security and sharing information and ideas with openness and respect.

Let’s come out of the dark — vote for Jim Keenan, Faith Schreier, Julian Swearengin, and Mike Turner. With all four of them beside us on the board, we will reaffirm the guiding principles of cooperative living and enrich East River Co-op for the next generation.

Cooperatively yours,
Lee Berman
Peter Herb

PS. With the holiday, it may be too late to mail in a directed proxy. Please fill out the general proxy for your address (find it here) to make sure your vote is counted for Jim, Faith, Julian, and Mike.

Proposal: Distribute coop financials 30 days before election

Ten days to go before our annual meeting … ten days before voting closes for the board of directors … and shareholders are still denied basic information about the coop’s financial situation.

Our fiscal year ended on June 30, yet almost five months later we have not yet seen financial statements. How are we supposed to make a judgement about our directors — especially the three incumbents running for re-election — if we are kept in the dark about their record?

The four candidates endorsed by Cooperatively Yours have pledged to make our audited annual report available 30 days before the annual meeting, so that appropriate questions can be raised during the campaign — and answered before you have to cast your vote.

How much did our unpopular pet policy cost us over the past year in legal fees? Is income keeping up with expenses? These are the kinds of questions we should be able to ask the candidates, and our discussions should be informed by up-to-date numbers. Instead, it has been the board’s pattern to distribute these financial reports at the last minute, just days before the annual meeting (after many cooperators have already cast their vote by proxy).

It shouldn’t take five months to produce information shareholders are entitled to. If we elect four new board members, it won’t anymore.


Question: Where are the financials?

It’s election time, with the annual meeting just two weeks away. Meet the Candidates night is Monday at 7pm, when we should be able to ask incumbents and candidates some tough questions about the state of the coop. But without having last year’s financials in hand — profit & loss and balance sheet — how do we even know what to ask?

So here’s a question: why are the financials always withheld until the last minute?


The fiscal year ended June 30. Four months is plenty of time to get the financials audited and distributed, which would give us all the opportunity to review the numbers, ask questions of the candidates, and make an informed choice. But if the last few years are an indication, the board will wait until just a couple days before the annual meeting to distribute financials.

Ellen Gentilviso is the chair of the finance committee; John Sotomayor is the treasurer. Along with Richard Kenny, they are directly responsible for this lapse and are asking you to re-elect them anyway. On Monday, ask this question and see if they can defend their record.

Question: What’s up with that new sublease policy?

With the meet the candidates forum coming up on Monday night, some questions come to mind that the incumbents should really be asked to answer. Here’s a big one:


Last month it was announced that the board had approved — with no input from shareholders and nothing but back-of-the-envelope analysis — a new sublease policy. The new policy raises fees slightly, from 100% of your maintenance to 150%, in exchange for allowing you to sublet your apartment forever. The board memo announcing the changes heralded “hundreds of thousands of dollars a year” that would come from the increased fees — though, more tellingly, the 2015-16 budget, approved after the new sublease fees were enacted, anticipates only $20,000 in additional revenue.

So do these numbers really add up? What’s behind the new policy?

Board candidate Mike Turner ran the numbers, and it doesn’t look good for the coop. Mike writes:

Extending the number of years allowed for sublets will reduce the number of first-sale apartments. That will cause a corresponding reduction in flip-tax revenue, which currently accounts for 20% of our annual income. Nudging even one prospective seller to become a permanent landlord would cost the co-op $140,000 in one year for a first-sale 2-bedroom apartment. It would take this one sublet apartment 13 years to generate that lost resale revenue through sublet fees, AND an ADDITIONAL 11 years for this sublet apartment to pay off the interest incurred on that $140,000 debt. In other words, it would take 24 years before we start to see a profit on this one apartment.

Check that out: 24 years before the coop makes a dime on those new fees. All the while the shareholder — now landlord — is earning an income from their apartment.

So who exactly was this new policy enacted for? For those few new landlords, not for the rest of us who will spend the next 24 years subsidizing their rental property.

Clip the question above and drop it in the hat Monday night — let’s see what sort of excuse incumbents Ellen Gentilviso, John Sotomayor, and Richard Kenny come up with.

Meet our candidates Thursday


If you’re looking for a more informal, free-flowing discussion of coop issues, please join us this Thursday, November 12 at 7:00 pm in the community room (Section M). The Cooperatively Yours slate — Jim Keenan, Faith Schreier, Julian Swearengin, and Mike Turner — will be on hand to say hello and answer your questions.

You’ll be very enthusiastic about voting for all four of them after you’ve met them and heard what they have to say.

Coop budget hides $1.5 million deficit with inflated flip tax forecast

There’s an adage that East River directors have yet to learn, and it may cost all of us $1.5 million before the year is out. That’s how much phantom income the board wrote into its 2015-16 budget with an inflated flip tax forecast.

color chicken
Don’t count those chickens before they hatch.

The board passed a budget three months late and $1.5 million short. It appears balanced only because the board majority inflated forecasts for flip tax revenue to $523,560 per month — even though the two months already in the books fell well short of that target.

How unrealistic is this forecast? Flip tax revenue of $5.7 million for the year would be more than in 2007, the height of the last real estate boom; more than in 2013 when the market finally bounced back (before falling again in 2014); in fact it would be our best year ever for flip tax revenue.

For comparison, Seward Park this year will barely reach $3.7 million in flip tax, and based on market projections has budgeted for even less next year. So does our board have a crystal ball? No — more like a crystal bubble.

The flip tax revenue at East River — 20% for first sales, 5% for all other sales — is our most unreliable income because we have no control over the real estate market. So why would the board choose such bullish projections? Because without this inflated line item, the budget for the current year would show a deficit of $1.5 million.

To cover that gap we’d need an 11.6% increase in maintenance fees. Of course, the incumbents running for re-election don’t want you to know about that maintenance increase until after the election.

But when their chickens don’t hatch, we’ll all be left with rotten eggs — 1.5 million of them.

We need honest accounting by the board and a strategy of increasing outside income to protect shareholders. Annual budget presentations by the board would keep cooperators informed and hold directors accountable to pass responsible, on-time budgets. If that sounds like the board of directors you want at East River, vote for JIM KEENAN, FAITH SCHREIER, JULIAN SWEARENGIN, and MIKE TURNER.