Maintenance/Budget/Management

(Please read my follow-up post, explaining certain references)

When I read that our maintenance would be raised 1% I didn’t think much about it. 1% seemed very little but then neighbors and I discussed it. Any increase in addition to sub-metering without insulation – going into another year w/o necessary repairs being made is disheartening. (although I happily report that the new board allowed desperately needed repairs to the 6 skylights this winter).  It was a huge breakthrough after the years of stonewalling.

Then I looked at the budget. OMG. I believe we could cut that budget, LOWER our maintenance (What a concept!) and PAY DOWN the mortgage. Even 10% for a start could lower the maintenance.

It seems to me we hire entirely too many people who are unskilled, hence little is properly done. I don’t think we need as many porters as we have.  We don’t need 2-3 maintenance people on most jobs (how many WVH maintenance guys does it take to screw in a light bulb?). Why in God’s name are we spending $300,000 a year (more than on repairs) for the security guys who spend their time hanging out in front of the all-night deli or in the gardens (or on my roof, smoking and talking on the cell phone, I kid you not). Surely we don’t need to spend $30,000 a year on the third party electric meter/billing guys (which figure I guess is hidden in that budget), do we?? If someone knows a good reason why, please advise.  If I am wrong, please let me know.

It would be good to know why $32,705 in budgeted repairs for 2011 didn’t get made. And the 2012 budget for repairs is further cut? Does this estimated, cut figure include new windows in the coming year?

In our gardens and around trees, we could have perennials instead of paying to constantly pull out, replace and throw away plants that never had a chance to flourish.

If we need to hire anyone at all, it’s an efficiency expert, pronto,   And someone who’s got “green” knowledge.  It wouldn’t take long to find out how much is featherbedding and how much is just waste through management choosing schlock, toxic materials and always just patching the worst problems rather than utilizing an organized, timely, program of maintenance/repair of infrastructure, etc. which would increase the value of our investment and beautify our environment.  Everything here could be done beautifully and solidly.

I can assure you the long existing, systemic communications problems cost us a fortune in time and money. I have worked as a communications coordinator several times in my life – I find dealing with our management office since the conversion is, at best,  like playing a game of telephone with a group of small children. It’s maddening.

In terms of incompetence and slacking off on the part of staff, I really don’t want to hear again about how strong anyone’s union is as an excuse. We can check into union job descriptions, limits, etc.; but, coming from a union family, in my experience, no union doesn’t expect their members to work for a living. I have witnessed/experienced abuses for which personnel should have been fired and no union would/could protest. And I find it frustrating how often staff sits idly around. But I also notice that our staff in general doesn’t look happy. How often do you see a smile? Perhaps nothing has been relegated and staff would/could do more. And I’m not saying there should be no forgiveness or allowances made. Everyone should be cut a little slack. But, for instance, it seems to me that over the years, some of the most skilled maintenance guys have been cut and then, not long after, we hire young, unskilled relatives of an employee. That’s nepotism.

And yet, we shareholders . . . what? Are not family? Many of us have invested everything we have into our homes; our money is being wasted; our property deteriorating; and our kids can’t have our apts. when we pass on. How is this okay?

If we absolutely can’t find skilled labor, although I can’t imagine why not, we’d do better to partially pay for training for our guys rather than let them go along, messing up the jobs; never knowing how to do things correctly. Isn’t that really how Barrett got himself electrocuted on the job, never to be okay again? Isn’t that why we have so many sick shareholders and insurance claims around mold improperly handled, etc.? (If I’m wrong, let me know. I’d love to be informed.)

Everyone these days (at least in the 99%) is tightening belts and that means we have to cut back on squandering shareholders’ money. Communications must be streamlined; duties relegated. More of our staff must be skilled, efficient, fluent in English so they don’t need to be accompanied by a second worker to translate; and expected to put in a day’s work for a day’s pay; not just be related to someone who already works here.

And we require a site manager who is knowledgeable, efficient and understands that he/she works for us and we are not to be abused, ignored, threatened or punished.

I know the newly run board is overwhelmed, playing catch up. But let us not proceed through another year with our money leaking though the sieve of mismanagement and maladministration.

Let’s share ideas how we might proactively proceed on our own behalf. I’m sure the new board is open to sensible help.  Perhaps we could include staff – encourage a dialog: “What more would/could you do  if you were allowed to?”  “What would you like to see changed?” “How would you here in the office, on the job, change the procedure?”

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6 thoughts on “Maintenance/Budget/Management

  1. I’ve had feedback that some readers feel I was being racist in my post. I did not mean to offend workers; I am not racist and I apologize if it appeared that I am.

    When I said, “More of our staff must be skilled, efficient, fluent in English so they don’t need to be accompanied by a second worker to translate”, I inadvertently made a generalization for which I apologize.

    It was prompted by a recent experience in which 3 workers came up to do second-stage clean-up after a plumbing job: one to do the physical work; another to translate into Spanish where things should be put; and I never knew why the 3rd person was there. And during that same, 2-day “event”, I had a very difficult time with the office. I was spoken to and treated in a degrading manner by Gail and by her daughter, who was then in our employ. So, was I combining the two experiences in one sentence which went on to say, ” . . and expected to put in a day’s work for a day’s pay; not just be related to someone who already works here.”? Yes. I unwittingly combined the two. And for that I apologize. I do believe a maintenance person should be able to communicate with a resident/shareholder if he’s sent to his/her apartment. In an exceptional situation such as this may have been, perhaps it was appropriate to send 3 people.

    What we can afford or not afford? I’m not sure. I don’t know how much money “we” have in the bank.

    I believe Elliman employees in the office should take responsibility to follow through, even if it’s 3:45 PM. I believe the manager’s teenage daughter should not be either left alone to run the office or allowed/encouraged to lie to shareholders that she is alone and no one can help the shareholder, whichever was the case. If a shareholder/resident comes home to a serious, immediate problem due to maintenance staff not following through, that manager should not put the shareholder on “hold”, close up the office and leave for the day.

    I am not looking for anyone to be fired. We are all part of this community and I hope everyone understands that I want this community to engage in meaningful, useful dialog for a better future for all.

  2. When I first read this I felt you made many good points. We especially need to have a manager who thinks through a problem before diving in to fix it. And we need to have guards who guard. But I was taken aback by the vitriol regarding of our porters. I don’t see them sitting around. Our porter, Marta is on her feet working all day except for her lunch or coffee break.

    I live at 684 Washington Marta is cheerful, greets us all with a ” How are you?” She does a wonderful job.
    Our building is spic and span. The men who stripped and waxed our floor recently did the best job we’ve ever had,
    and Marta has maintained it beautifully. I know I speak on behalf of the other shareholders who live at 684 Washington Street who all share the utmost respect and gratitude for Marta and the work she does.

    If our public spaces look at all shabby it’s because the linoleum floor is the same one we’ve had since I moved
    here 27 years ago. It’s cracked in the edges and the seams show. Our staircase doesn’t meet the wall in some places and that gap collects very hard to clean soil. And finally when various stair treads needed to be replaced, they were replaced with mismatched treads. It looks terrible. But t he office made the decision. We complained and were told that’s all they had.

    Under Nancy’s management the porters have all improved in the last few years. But you’re correct moral hasn’t been great. Perhaps now with the changing of management things will improve.

    • With so many of us here, there are likely to be different opinions. There was no vitriol intended on my part regarding staff. Marta is currently our porter and I agree her work has improved significantly over the years. And I certainly agree that Nancy has helped in that regard. And yes, Marta always is friendly and kind.

      I may have misinformation about work load. How many buildings does each porter have, per week, does anyone know?

      • I think each porter has between 4 and 6 buildings, depending on the size of the building, and then laundry rooms, & recycling cages, plus the sidewalks, utility areas, tree pits and garden areas. Marta has four buildings (all four bedroom, 5 flights) and two large recycling cages, two laundry rooms, the sidewalks, the garden in front of 684, the guards office, a bike room and a utility room.

  3. Clearly we do not need private security. We live in one of the safest neighborhoods in NYC. Can anyone tell me what they actually do? I believe we need to audit what they have actually accomplished in, say, the last year. I am out walking my dog at all hours, early in the morning and late at night, and I rarely see them making rounds, though, as stated above, I often see them at the deli. They seem to be nice guys, but $300,000 is a LOT of money.

    • Susan, I know of one resident who was walking her dog late on Halloween night. She is well known to the security guards as she walks her dog late every night. She and her small, old dog were surrounded and hassled in a threatening way by a group of drunk/drugged teens. The security guard(s) who was very nearby, turned his back and walked away as fast as he could. So, yes, I’d like to know what they do. Maybe he went back tot he office to call 911; maybe not. Clearly he was not there for her. Perhaps he was afraid but that doesn’t serve any of us who need help quickly. $300,000 a year???

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