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Owners reach out for better employee relations.

Owners reach out for better employee relations

Many owners and managers are giving extra effort to maintaining and improving relationships with building employees. Special events and on-going programs, they say, encourage loyalty, cooperation and quality work.

Morton Glick is the managing director of Morton Andrews Associates which manages several Park Avenue properties. Glick, who was formerly with Douglas Elliman, maintains a close relationship with the superintendents of his buildings.

Glick is involved with several of the city's building managers organizations and goes to monthly meetings at the Slovak American Building Managers Club and the Metropolitan Building Managers Club which, he said, used to be the Douglas Elliman Club. "It's just being with people you are comfortable with," Glick said, adding that the presidents of both clubs worked for him at one time.

"By dealing with them on a personal level, as well as a business level, there is an interrelationship there that flows into other things," Glick said.

Harley Brooke-Hitching owns properties in East Harlem. All of her Spanish-speaking employees live in her buildings, which she says sometimes breeds negative feelings between workers and non-workers. Non-workers may view the staffers as "tenant police," she said. "It's hell for them living in the buildings where they work," she noted. "I postponed paying some other bills and took everyone who worked for me and their kids to Disneyworld for Christmas."

Brooke-Hitching said the trip was like a big Outward Bound experience and the staffers became better friends and stopped trying to "act superior" to each other. In addition, she said, "word got out that their employer thought so much of them" and they were more respected by their neighbors.

Jeffrey C. Gold, CPM, RAM, vice president of Marvin Gold Management Co. Inc., said they manage about 138 building corporations with about 25,000 apartments in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. Gold said they have people working for them who have been there 20 to 25 years.

Gold said their company is run more like a family-type operation, adding they do not "clockwatch" their employees nor count up sick days. In one instance, Gold said, a valued employee was out after an operation for six weeks.

"We never put him on disability," he said, and the firm paid his full salary for the entire time. "We keep an eye only to the extent we don't want somebody to abuse it," Gold added.

Marvin Gold Management also puts out a newsletter to the residents and employees of the buildings. One column in each issue introduces different employees to the readers.

Les Gurren, president of Excelsior Management, which manages 110 buildings in the city and Westchester. Excelsios does a number of things for his office staff. The firm pays for everyone to take the real estate course to become licensed brokers. "I've sent a couple of people to college and reimburse them for six credits," Gurren said, adding that it depends on the individual's skill and how long they have worked there.

Gurren said in his accounts payable department, the employees work flexible hours as many have children. "Sometimes the kids come into the office," he said. "We try to take care of the people with families."

One problem facing the wives of supers in luxury Manhattan buildings, Glick notes, is that they become very lonely people because they cannot mingle with the residents of the buildings where they live. "In Brooklyn, Queens and Westchester," Glick said, "the wives make friends with the neighbors." He said in placing a superintendent, he tries to find something in the same neighborhood as a friend or relative.

The clubs create a social life for the superintendents and their families by having Christmas and children's parties, golf outings and other events. Glick also takes one club every year to the Benmarl Vineyards winery in Marlborough, New York, for a wine tasting event.

The clubs are very important for their social life and the pride of the members, Glick added. Part of the meetings are also dedicated to technical aspects of running the buildings.

By being a part of the clubs, Glick is able to network with the superintendents as well as obtain recommendations to fill other building positions. The clubs serve as a means of finding employment, not only for supers but for doormen, handymen and porters. "They know who is good," Glick said, "and would not recommend someone otherwise." If there is a man who has worked as a handyman, he said, and could be a superintendent, then Glick learns about him and tries to get him a job when there is an opening.

Gurren said they can be more responsive to employee needs in the non-union buildings. Supers get a choice of days and some overtime, he said. "In the building services industries," Gurren added, "there are not a lot of flexible things you can do."

With union buildings, Gurren noted, "flexibility can get you into trouble." He said there is a "past practice clause' in the union contract, so a building operator cannot allow something different to happen, or it may become a permanent part of the building's operations.

The Marvin Gold firm deals with about six different unions and many buildings that are not union, Gold said. They do the interviewing process for the buildings and also make the recommendations. "As part of our hiring practice," Gold added, "we don't necessarily look for the biggest degree of experience. We look for them to be sincere."

The Excelsior supers are trained at the Apartment House Institute and learn about different building systems. Additionally, Gurren said, he likes to promote from within.

Gold said a super who is having trouble with an authority figure can put pressure on the building and the managing agent. That is why, Gold said, most union supers survive managing agents. "It's easier to do an immaculate conception than to fire a union super," Gold added. "By the time you go through arbitration and document everything, the odds are you will lose the first time out." One super in Rego Park, he said, who "wouldn't do a darn thing," was given a monetary incentive to leave. Sometimes negotiations that lead to those kinds of arrangements are the only reasonable way out, he added.

"The heart of a successful operation is a good working relationship between all of the parties," Gold said. "It's like a marriage, when it's good it's great, but when it's bad, at some place, a divorce will occur. The balloon can only stretch so far."

Immigrant Labor Pool

Additionally, owners and managers are finding that a network of highly-educated immigrants and political refugees have broadened the pool of hard working and intelligent building employees.

The Slovaks, Glick said, are primarily political refugees. "A lot have college degrees; one was in medical school in Moscow," he said. "When a person leaves their home they start from scratch."

Gurren said he is also seeing a lot of skilled Europeans on his building staffs. "They are handy and college educated," he added.

Gold said they often hire people who have been persecuted in their old country. "We have hired a lot of Romanians, Cubans and other immigrants who are really overqualified and have college degrees and other qualifications. I have people who were licensed engineers in their old country."

Gold said a lot of the Americans are spoiled and after they are hired, become demanding. "My problem is that they come in with a chip on their shoulder and it becomes an operating problem. You take the Romanians and they're so used to dealing with authority that they are ready to kiss your feet."

PHOTO : At a special wine tasting for co-op Building Managers hosted by Morton Glick, managing director of the newly formed management company, Morton Andrews Associates, are Paul Kelbel, Building Manager of Trump Plaza, 167 East 61st Street, and president of the Slovak-American Building Manager's Club (L) and Morton Glick (R) in the wine cellar.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 12, 1991
Words:1328
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