Woodland House Condo Pariah Takes Another Shot At Her Board of Directors, This Time Over Lobby Furniture

If Only Joan Rivers Were My Condo Board President

Many celebrities live in New York City, yet comedienne Joan Rivers may be the only condo board president among them. She joined the board almost twenty-five years ago.

“I wanted things done right,” she recently told The New York Times.

Nine years ago, Ms. Rivers stepped up to the role of president; she describes sprucing up the lobby as one of her proudest accomplishments.

How bad did the lobby look before she got involved?

 The furniture used to consist of a card table and an old desk chair, Rivers says.

 I emphasize with that situation because here at the Woodland House in Hartford, my guests are greeted by a ratty couch, two chairs, and an empty table.

I confess: For years I walked through the lobby without looking to the right or to the left. But last winter someone angled the threadbare couch into the room, and it became impossible to ignore.

With a little investigation, I discovered that the couch could be reupholstered for about $500, and proposed it during the public comment portion of a board meeting.

“No,” said Board President Peter Beckmann. “I want to complete the carpet purchase process currently underway before getting involved in other projects.”

Fair enough.

After the Board authorized the carpet purchase, I brought up the couch again.

I want the carpet to be installed and have time to get used to it first,” Mr. Beckmann said, even though the association has budgeted $8,000 this fiscal year for updating the lobby. And even though state law mandates that condo boards maintain the building’s common elements. And especially in light of my whopping $7,900/year condo fee.

emergency door locked from inside

On the other hand, projects suggested by board members have been met with greater enthusiasm.

Last week, for example, Treasurer Bill Cibes successfully lobbied to spend $3,000 for a 100-decibal horn, to be hooked to the Security Desk in the lobby. It will blare if a particular fence gate is opened.

Although Board President Peter Beckmann presented the purchase as a way to bolster security, the fact that the fence gate only opens outward was given short shrift. (That means no one can get in from the outside unless a resident lets them in.)

Dr. Cibes and Mr. Beckmann seem to be concerned that such a person might descend the stairs to the locked (from the inside) emergency exit, and then walk down a 35-foot concrete path to sneak guests into the building.

“I saw footprints in the snow,” Dr. Cibes said.

Was he referring to the unexpected Halloween storm last October, when the snow quickly melted? Or to February 2011, the last time any measurable precipitation fell in Hartford before then? And was the building superintendent questioned to see if he or his assistant had trod on the fresh snow?

Dr. Cibes and Mr. Beckmann’s concerns (to the tune of spending $3,000 for a loud warning horn) make me wonder if they think we’re back in the day when college girls snuck boys into their dorm rooms? Or if they’re worried that a resident might admit an unsavory character?

It’s laughable because we can bring whomever we want into the building through either the underground garage or the side door on the mezzanine level.

Perhaps board members want to feel as if they control what goes on here.

On that score, I’ve gone off the reservation by blogging on CtCondoNews. Some people don’t like it: the board president’s wife screamed at me during a public meeting; the treasurer’s wife has told people I’m crazy; and the Board is in the process of restricting unit owner input at board meetings.

To be patently honest, I sometimes feel afraid here. Fearful that board members or their friends might try to physically harm me for speaking out. Yet Eleanor Roosevelt’s words cheer me on: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

After all, isn’t that what Joan Rivers has done during her long career?

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4 Responses to Woodland House Condo Pariah Takes Another Shot At Her Board of Directors, This Time Over Lobby Furniture

  1. Sandi Martinik says:

    My sentiments exactly; keep up the good work with lessen fears!!!

  2. Pete Beckmann says:

    Ms. Stern; 1) Thank you for your personal opinion about the covering of the lobby couch. It will certainly be done after we have our new carpets installed. Based on the ambiance of the light, wall color and hallway carpets, an appropriate reupholstering of the couch and benches on all floors will be addressed within the budget allocated. 2) Your reason for presenting a picture of the emergency door locked from the inside is puzzling to me. It is and emergency exit and should be locked on the inside to prevent someone from entering the building. It is for exiting in an emergency. 3)The “$3000 Horn” you despairingly described is important to the safety of our community. The Safety Committee met with the local fire experts for a safety review. A finding was the fire alarm/evacuation warning system is not audible in our outside pool and recreation area and must be corrected. The board was not happy with the qoute amount and has requested at least two more quotes for the addition of an outside warning horn for the safety of all residents and guests. 4) It is very important to maintain the security of the pool area for both protecting unattended children from getting access to the pool through an unlocked pool gate and the associated liability based on laws requiring the security of the pool area. If someone is injured or child drowns in the pool, because our pool area is not secure, we would not be meeting our social or legal responsibilities. 5) As a unit owner/resident utilizing other building entrances for letting guests in, you are assuming the responsibility for all guests you bring into the building or grounds. That is certainly NOT laughable. 6) Rather than be paranoid, you would be better off taking and Effective Listening Course at a local community college.

  3. Connecticut Condo Ombudsman Supporter says:

    I applaud Ms. Stern for raising issues she feels are important at her condo association board meetings. More owners should speak up, especially when condo boards act unreasonably.

    Shame on her condo board, or any condo board, for restricting unit owner input at board meetings.

    So much more within communities can be resolved if condo boards engaged in further discussion with unit owners and sought owner input in important decisions affecting them.

    It is indeed telling when a condo board president publicly puts down a unit owner in his community as he did in his response to Ms. Stern’s article.

    The last sentence in particular is offensive and rude. These are not the traits of a good leader.

  4. DLB says:

    Don’t let them deter you Ms. Stern. I can tell by Mr. Beckmann’s response that he is at the very least annoyed by your request. Well get over it Mr. Beckmann! Did someone force you to be on the board? In that role (which I assume you voluntarily choose) you need to go out of your way to listen and respond (politely and respectfully) to many different people, all with different opinions and views. I swear that many board members are only on the board to exert power and control over others, and some just don’t have the right skills for the job.

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