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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
  Hiring Supers  
  By Michael Sullivan


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Beryl Anto is in a quandary. It’s not because last year’s kickback indictments by the Manhattan district attorney’s office removed her building’s managing agent. And it’s not because the former president just up and disappeared, abandoning his apartment and his commitment to the co-op. It’s because Anto has to begin a task that will directly affect the daily maintenance of the property for years to come. She has to find a new superintendent.

“I don’t know where to go from here,” she sighs. “Our previous super was so handy. He worked outside the building and his wife acted as a porter, taking care of the day-to-day stuff. I liked the way the arrangement worked.”

Unfortunately for 100 Park Terrace West, the 64-unit Manhattan co-op in which Anto lives, the super outgrew the one-bedroom apartment and will be gone by the end of the year, after having worked there for the last six. Anto tried placing ads in the New York Times, but has not yet located a good candidate.

Finding a good superintendent is not easy, but it is vital. As any managing agent will attest, his or her job becomes immeasurably easier when he or she is dealing with a smart superintendent. So it is important for all parties – boards, residents, managers, supers – that the fit be right and the relationship be kept strong and functioning.

So, where do you start? There are numerous suggestions about where to find your next super. The most traditional way is to place an advertisement in the New York Times or a local paper. What you may get will probably run the gamut in knowledge and experience, however. It may make more sense to look in your own backyard first, at your porters or other staff members. Some of the best supers are former doormen, says one manager. Provided they have the skills, they will already be well-versed in dealing with the buildings’ residents.

Another option is to check local hospitals or schools. These are a great resources for smaller buildings, observes Dick Koral, founder and director of the Supers Technical Association of New York, a technical society of New York’s multi-family building maintenance personnel. “Usually they’ll have an excellent maintenance staff and you might be able to get someone to moonlight for you,” he observes. “If the building [contains] less than 80 to 100 apartments, say, you may have a tough time justifying hiring a super full-time. A lot of the time they’ll be doing the sweeping and such. What you can do is hire a full-time porter to handle the daily stuff.”

Ask your managing agent for help. He or she may have other buildings in which a staff member might be ready to become a super. Other options include checking out the Supers Technical Association website ( where supers may post their resumes.

After examining these areas, you should have a few good men, or women. It’s time to really put the spotlight on them and find out what they’ll do. What should you be looking at?

(1) References. Check them thoroughly. “Be savvy,” advises Koral. Only by talking to former employees will you be able to get a grasp of their level of commitment.

(2) Continuing education. Check the courses and certifications the applicant has taken or is taking. A good super will be pursuing some form of development. Encourage him or her to continue after hiring. “You want someone that can add value to your building,” notes Jonathan West, president of Charles H. Greenthal Group, a Manhattan-based management company.

(3) Presentation. While a super doesn’t need to be in a jacket and tie, he or she should nonetheless be presentable, as well as be able to communicate effectively. Some buildings require blood tests and credit checks, and also investigate to make sure the person does not have a police record. Importantly, the applicant should be physically able to do the job, as well; not too young, not too old.

(4) Is he experienced? A potential candidate could have as little as a year or two as a super or handyman. Some managers recommend three to four years, with preferences toward ten. You probably want someone that came out of a trade: an electrician, carpenter, or the crème de la crème, plumber.

“You want a hands-on type of super,” notes Leonard Zangas, a partner in Vision Enterprises, a managing firm in Bayside, N.Y. “A good super has been around. They should know what to do.”

(5) Does he have a specialty? There should be some area of specialization. This should help in dealing with your normal vendors, as well.

(6) Does he know his limits? The candidate should also know what not to do, says Timothy Carr, vice president of Midboro Management in Manhattan [CK]. “The super needs to know their boundaries. If something is out of the realm of their ability, they should not attempt anything. They may be trying to do the right thing, but it could blow up in your face.”

The board should have a list of things they think the super should be doing and problem areas in the building. Ask the super to walk the property and make out a report of what he or she thinks needs to be done. They have then asked the candidate to give them a written copy of it and present their findings. “You really get to know them that way,” says West.

Most buildings have a six-month probationary period for new supers. Having done the walk-through with the agent and board representative, the super will know what is acceptable and is unacceptable. If the goals are realistic, and the super agrees to them, you have a measuring stick to judge his future performance.

After you hire the super, how do you insure that he or she doesn’t burn out or quit? First, establish the chain-of-command early. With a good super you should not be micro-managing. If there is one thing supers dislike, according to Koral, it is every board member getting involved in day-to-day building operations.

Also, keep the lines of communication open. If there is a problem, sit down immediately with him or her. Document everything, as well, especially if your building happens to be unionized.

Finally, don’t skimp on salary. “A good super is worth more than you are probably paying him,” Carr charges. “A lot of the big buildings on the West Side don’t want to lose their supers to the East Side, so some give huge bonuses, or other incentives.”

Those may include a better apartment or parking space or other amenities. The ultimate goal is to make the super feel like a valued member of the team. That could also mean inviting him or her to board meetings, not just to listen but to speak. “You need to make them feel like more than employees, like it is more than a business,” says Carr. “If you can get them to feel like it is a home then they will treat it like a home.”




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