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
“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
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 (www.superstechnicalassociation.org)
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
(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
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.”