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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Restoring the Building with Blue Lights

Steve Carbone,Board Vice President, Kennedy House
Resident Since: 1996
Joined Board: 2006

Steve Carbone grew Up in Middle Village, Queens, and, at age 51, he still has fond memories of his childhood. One was riding home at night on Grand Central Parkway in the back seat of his parents’ car. His favorite part of the ride was when they passed “a towering building with blue lights – it was always a beacon to me, the place where I wanted to live.” That building was the Kennedy House, a 31-story, 405-unit rental that opened in 1964 and became a co-op in the 1980s. 

Carbone’s father was a police officer, and his mother was a nurse. After attending New York Institute of Technology on Long Island, Carbone went into the advertising business. His wife works as a product developer in the cosmetics industry, and they have two boys, aged 10 and 13. In 1996, Carbone realized his boyhood dream and moved into the “towering building with blue lights.” He joined the co-op board in 2006 and is currently vice president.


HABITAT: I understand you’re on your co-op’s five-member plant committee. What does that committee do, and who should be on it?

CARBONE: We’re a design committee, responsible for the care of the physical plant. It’s good to have some professionals involved. We have engineers and architects on board, and they provide tremendous value because they’re working every day with these suppliers and contractors and with the City of New York. I work at an advertising agency, but I have owned a couple of homes, so I have an understanding of construction. I bring a little bit of that, but I would be lost without them. One of them is Larry Rosenblum, really an amazing talent and an amazing architect.

HABITAT: What has the committee been doing?

CARBONE: We have a whole bunch of projects going on right now. We have a 54-year-old building, so the board asked us to take the initiative and start making some improvements. When the building was originally designed in the 1960s, they used a lot of natural wood tones that were beautiful. Somewhere in the mid-’90s, the board did a redesign and deviated from the original feeling of the building. We wanted to go back to its heritage.

HABITAT:  How did you do that?

CARBONE: Looked back at old photos. We went and researched the original intent.

HABITAT: What is the best way to proceed when redesigning public spaces?

CARBONE: Find an outside designer. We spent a lot of time interviewing design firms because we’re not designers. AKAM, our management company, did a great job in bringing in designers, but so did Larry. We ended up interviewing a whole bunch of design firms before we settled on Forbes Ergas. Karen Jack was our main designer there, and she just got us. I mean, she just got what we were trying to achieve, understood our thinking. And she made it better.

HABITAT: What other steps are important in a redesign?

You should have a longterm plan. We always look at least five years ahead, and then we manage the budget, looking at the projects that we want to fix so that we can provide that maximum value for our shareholders without having to hit them with a big assessment. We always keep a healthy reserve account. It’s there for emergencies. The building always has liquid cash, a couple of million dollars.

HABITAT: How involved should the residents be in a redesign?

CARBONE:  We shared the designs, and we listened to some of their feedback and their comments. But as we went through this process, it was kind of hard to involve 405 apartments because there are so many different people with so many different opinions. They voted us in to run the board and manage the building on their behalf, so that we can make these kinds of decisions for them. I own stocks in a lot of companies as a shareholder, but I’m not sitting there making all those decisions about what the [board of directors] does. So that’s how we approach it. We’re making decisions in the best interests of all the shareholders.


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