Dear 336 CPW Friends and Neighbors,

I sit here writing this on the spectacularly beautiful, bright, sunny spring day that opens Memorial Day Weekend 2015. I know that some of you – and surmise that many others of you – have already scooted off for an early start to the first big weekend of the summer, for which I offer you fond hopes for fine weather, good times and a relaxing break. As you read this, I will be hoping it was all that in fact.

Since my last letter musing about what we might do in the Annual Meeting, we’ve now actually had the Annual Meeting and two board meetings – the annual organizational board meeting and the first regularly scheduled monthly board meeting of the new, expanded board. I am especially happy to report the following factoids. One, our attendance – in person or by proxy – at the Annual Meeting was better than ever before: 93.55% of all outstanding shares. Two, we had what I thought was an excellent meeting that was both productive and informative, while at the same time being orderly to the point of almost being subdued. We now have a board of 10 where it was 7 last year, and we have 5 new members serving their first full term – James Graff, Patrick McCloskey, Cindy Michel, Todd O’Donald and Seth Segel. The influx of talent and experience and the variety of expertise they contribute is simply gratifying. I hope we will begin promptly to make practical, proper and productive use of all of it.

At the same time, we also have sitting on the board the benefit of plenty of years of direct and successful experience with all things 336 CPW. We are in good shape, I would say — and it’s a good thing, because we have a number of big-picture, longer-term projects and initiatives that are going to be both vital to the building and its residents and challenging. We are already beginning work on many of them. We will keep you posted as they unfold.

One of the topics of discussion at the Annual Meeting was Columbia Grammar & Prep School (CGPS) and the traffic issues that arise at the beginning and the end of the school day. We learned that some of our residents have been engaging in something of an ad hoc dialogue with school officials (principally the Head of School and the Director of Security) concerning the issues. The board was invited to join that dialogue.

The board is aware – and I am acutely mindful – of both the presence of CGPS as our proximate and very unique neighbor, as well as the particular issues associated with having a school in a residential neighborhood such as ours. These include not only traffic but also the disturbances that arise from the presence of many young, energetic children playing nearby and from construction projects in which the school has engaged now and then. As you may be aware, the board through various members – including myself on many occasions – has engaged with building residents and representatives of the school in search of solutions or ameliorants for the various challenges we experience as neighbors. There has been an ongoing dialogue between us and the school. Of course, there are no silver bullets for these problems, but we have been able to share input, suggestions and commentary with the school. We have seen the school take specific steps to address the problems, and we have seen improvements deriving from those steps. In that vein, at our last meeting we received a visit from the Head of School and the Director of Security and enjoyed a 45-minute discussion of the history of the problem, ameliorative steps being taken and progress being made – as well as identifying areas that still need improvement. We were also reminded the school rather soon will begin a new construction project on the south side of 93rd Street atop its prep school building.

336 CPW has a fundamentally good and collaborative relationship with CGPS. It is not without friction from time to time, which we would like to minimize, as would they. In sum, however, we think our relationship and our access and our ability to influence the school on issues of mutual concern are all pretty much as they should be. We will continue our efforts to help with the difficulties that vex us all. At the same time, we are mindful that our constituencies overlap to some degree, and the presence of CGPS families at 336 CPW, does – and should –influence how we think about framing our relations with the school. We are also mindful of other factors discussed in our meeting – the school’s state of the art security equipment on both 93rd and 94th Streets, the presence of its security personnel on both street-facing sides of our building during much of every school day, and substantial financial contributions from the school for student financial aid and for beautification of 94th Street. All of this, I think, leads to a conclusion that the board will continue its own efforts to converse and collaborate with the school in search of solutions for neighborhood problems that we all find vexatious and frustrating. Of course, we always welcome your input concerning those efforts.

Let me conclude this note with a very brief report of where we are operationally at the close of about 1/3 of the year. Basically, so far so good on the budget; we are pretty much on track. The physical plant is in pretty good shape – especially for a structure that is 86 years old. But, again, we must remain constantly vigilant to avoid surprises such as they just had over on West End Avenue recently. Our cash position remains sound – I might even venture, perhaps, to call it strong. We hope to maintain or improve on that. I believe you received a note from Orsid recently concerning an initiative to close all of the open permits with the Department of Buildings – of all types. Some are more complicated and more serious than others. Let me simply exhort everyone who has any problem in this area to work with Orsid, Sergio and the Board to get it cleaned up. This is of concern to all of us.

I’ll close with two somewhat personal notes. The first loops back to my first topic. We have lots of board members. They are there for all of you. Do me a favor and get to know at least one of them, if you don’t already. Talk to them. Tell them what’s on your mind. Good stuff as well as bad. In the words of the goofy robot Number 5 in the 1986 movie Short Circuit: “Need more input.” Incidentally, you may be interested to know that the lead female actress in that movie – Ally Sheedy – grew up at 350 CPW and for all I know her father still lives in the neighborhood. I used to see him walking his dog all the time.

My second note is a farewell to Fabian Gonzalez. Fabian was probably only here for three or four years at most, but he made a great contribution. His work ethic was superb, and he proved himself to be a wonderful, decent soul. I am sorry he has left, and I will miss him. So, I am sure, will many others. Farewell and Godspeed, Fabian.

Warm regards. Have a great Spring and early Summer. See you soon.


Mike Schell