New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Do What’s Best for Everyone

Habitat: Why did you want to serve on the board?

Scambia: Because I didn’t like what the previous board was doing. They hadn’t raised maintenance for six or seven years, then they did a window project, which, to most of us, was a bit of a disaster. They ended up doing an assessment, which was supposed to be paid over two years but ended up taking four years. Then they raised maintenance 15 to 20 percent. We replaced the entire board – seven people.

Habitat: What kind of changes did you make?

Scambia: We refinanced the mortgage in 2007 and were able to take advantage of the lower interest rates, take extra money out, and keep maintenance stable. We have made a lot of capital improvements. We redid all the lobbies. We redid the hallways, put in new carpeting, and did a lot of landscaping.

Habitat: What is your day job?

Scambia: I am the controller for a financial services company.

Habitat: Does that help you on the board?

Scambia: Yes. I understand how a business runs, and I think a lot of people do not. They’re too emotional. They’re looking at what benefits them personally. You have to do what’s best for everyone, but you’re never going to please everyone. People don’t like maintenance increases. They don’t like assessments. If you are smart and you increase the maintenance maybe one percent a year to keep up with expenses, you’re not going to have huge maintenance increases every five years. I majored in finance and have been working in the financial services industry since I graduated. I’ve been doing accounting for 25 years and just love keeping records and making sure everything is in order.

Habitat: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Scambia: I like to read escapist novels. I like to cook. I enjoy spending time with my friends and my family – my mother, my brothers, and my nieces and nephews, and cousins. We go on family vacations to Long Beach Island in New Jersey. I have two brothers – one is a fireman and also a pharmacist, and the other is an insurance agent. I’m not married.

Habitat: What are some of the lessons you have learned on the board?

Scambia: We try and be forward-thinking and anticipate our needs going out five years. Brian Scally, our manager at Garthchester, is very good at this. We plan and say, “OK, let’s look at this. We know we don’t have to do this right now, but we may need a roof in five years, so let’s start preparing for that.” We try and do things that are going to improve the value of the property. If there are any projects that we think of doing, we have a lot of discussion beforehand. What are the pros and cons? How’s that going to affect us? Can we afford it right now? Should we put it off? Things like that.

Habitat: Curb appeal is a big issue for you.

Scambia: It is, because it’s people’s first impression of the property. We have a great staff. We have a lot of amenities, which is nice. We have a pool. We have a laundry room on each floor. We have a compactor room on each floor. We have communal storage on each floor. There are six floors in each building.

Habitat: Has the role of the president been different from what you expected?

Scambia: In the beginning, yes, it was a big learning curve. But I feel like our board has done a lot to improve the property, financially, and that’s a big concern. It’s a good accomplishment to know that you’re making people happy and also protecting your investment.

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