Two Grand Street Cooperatives Elect New Board Members

Hillman Cooperative.

Two Grand Street cooperatives, Hillman and Seward Park, elected new board members in the past several days. At Hillman – where State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver lives – incumbents were defeated for the first time in many years (possibly ever). Howard Stern and Pavel Lempert will be joining the Hillman board, replacing Chaim Lazar and Arleen Soberman.Two other incumbents, Judith Mitrani and Aaron From, were re-elected.

Ten years after the cooperatives voted to become market-rate developments, perhaps half of the apartments have turned over. When they were built, the buildings were filled with a mostly homogeneous population largely made up of  white, middle-class Jewish residents. The new residents are more diverse, ethnically and economically. Some Hillman shareholders see the election as a small sign that the board is beginning to reflect this demographic change.  Stern and Lempert have both lived in Hillman for several years, as opposed to several decades.

At Seward Park, the election results were delayed until yesterday, as indications of possible ballot fraud were sorted out. The victorious candidates were Charles Leiberman, Bill King, Wei-Li Tjong and Geordan Goldstein. Last year, the Seward Park board went through a major transformation. New directors, including Seward Park President Michael Tumminia, shook up the status quo.

Among the initiatives they pushed: the creation of the Hester Street Fair, a sophisticated new computer system, an aggressive recycling initiative, a car sharing program and an exploration of the co-op’s air rights. Perhaps more significantly, they instituted new financial oversight measures, arguing that previous boards had been irresponsible with shareholders’ money.

Suffice it to say the campaign was a nasty one. Some residents believed opponents engaged in “class warfare,” attempting to pit longtime shareholders against newer residents. Others were concerned about maintenance increases, which the board said were necessary to put the co-op on firm financial footing. In the end, only one of the candidates Tumminia backed (incumbent Tjong) won. The Seward Park board will meet soon to decide whether Tumminia will continue as president.

Full disclosure: Traven and I are Seward Park shareholders. For this reason we did not report about the campaign while it was ongoing.