New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Taking Charge: Lee Hoffman, Board Treasurer, Mayfair Towers

Lee Hoffman isn’t just a New York City native; he’s a New York City co-op native. He grew up in the Savoy, a co-op on East 85th Street, and has spent the last 20 years living in various co-ops on the Upper East and Upper West Sides while managing technology for such companies as TimeWarner and Razorfish Studios. Hoffman, 41, a graduate of Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, is now the president of Runwise, a building systems control platform, but he still manages to find time for his duties as treasurer at Mayfair Towers, a 37-story, 497-unit co-op on West 72nd Street next door to the Dakota. He spoke with Habitat about the challenges of being a board member — and the importance of making decisions for the long-term.


Second generation. My wife and I moved into Mayfair Towers in the beginning of 2021. She grew up in the building and her parents still live here, and one of the doormen who held her as a baby is still here, too. I joined the board six months later and became treasurer last summer. We were previously shareholders at the Brevard on East 54th Street, where I served as board president. It’s my nature to solve problems and help make sure things are running well at the co-ops where I live.


Steady as you go. Right now we’re working on replacing our old chillers with fully electric, much more efficient ones. It’s a huge, expensive project with a lot of moving parts. The old stuff has to be removed and the new stuff has to be brought in. You’re boring through the entire building running electrical conduits and making noise on every floor. It takes a lot of coordination, but fortunately we have a great committee that is doing a phenomenal job overseeing things. 


As for funding the project, the board has also done an excellent job managing the co-op’s finances. This all predates me, but there haven’t been any assessments in quite a few years because we’ve had consistent, predictable maintenance increases that have been small and very reasonable. 


Carbon-cutting. For the immediate future, we don’t have any other energy-efficiency projects on our agenda. In terms of meeting our emissions caps and avoiding fines in 2025, we’re in pretty good shape. I think that’s the case with most buildings if you do some of the basic stuff to get your systems operating efficiently. That’s what my company, which uses a wireless computer and sensor network to control heating, water and other key systems, does. Runwise was installed at the Brevard after I moved out, and if I ever leave the Mayfair board and it wants to install Runwise here, fine. But of course it’s not appropriate as long as I’m a director.


Cost calculations. We are now starting to focus on the longer-term capital-improvement projects that need to get done as the Local Law 97 carbon caps become lower and the fines more aggressive. 


My philosophy is you rank projects using two metrics. The first is the return on investment — that is, if I do this project now, will it add dollars back to the budget and have a good payback? No. 2, you look at whether something is in dire need of being done because the equipment is at the end of its life and is physically failing, which was the case with our chillers. That’s the way we’ll approach our projects going forward.


Balancing act. It’s very easy for boards to just get through the stuff that has to be done from day to day — whether it’s getting the newsletter out, preparing for board meetings, reviewing buyer applications — and end up making decisions sort of haphazardly. The best boards I’ve been on, including this one, do a balance of those tasks and future planning. They ask where they want their buildings to be in 20 years, how they are going to fund that and how they are going to get shareholders to buy into their vision. Really smart boards integrate long-term goals into their short-term decision-making.


Two-way street. If you ask me what’s the most important thing I’ve learned as a board member, it’s that you’ve got to communicate effectively with residents. Boards are elected to represent their buildings, but that doesn’t mean they have the power to rule by putting down commandments. It’s a give-and-take with shareholders, especially when you’re doing big capital projects that involve going into people’s private space and disrupting their lives. It’s essential that you not only message what you’re doing, but hear people out, be respectful and acknowledge their concerns. That said, you are elected to make decisions that are in the best interest of your co-op, even if you know that some people are not going to be happy with them.

Subscriber Login

Ask the Experts

learn more

Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?