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Midboro Management and Michael Jay Wolfe
By R.T. Livingston

As Published in the Cooperator

Wearing a headset and focusing on the glare of his computer screen, Michael Jay Wolfe, president of Midboro Management, Inc., is plugged in, in more than one way, to the 55 buildings managed by his firm. Wolfe's office overlooks New York's cultural mecca: Lincoln Center. This manager, however, is not the type to sit back and enjoy the view. He is a hands-on, energy packed, "type A" kind of guy with the necessary determination and drive to tackle the most difficult trouble-shooting problems. Wolfe leans back in his swivel chair, then comes forward in a reassuring gesture. "I'm at my best under pressure. I never let problems linger. This job is all about problem-solving. That's what we do best."

Professionalism and Teamwork
Alfred Shapiro, treasurer of the board at 194 Riverside Drive, has the highest respect for Michael Wolfe. "Michael has a wonderful combination of street smarts and technical knowledge that makes for a great managing agent." As a licensed real estate broker and mortgage broker, Wolfe brings an added sense of professionalism to his management style. Wolfe's participation in the Real Estate Board of New York and his position as vice president of the Association of Cooperative Condominium Managers keep him abreast of the latest developments in his field.

There is a serious corporate look to the firm's 4,200-square-foot headquarters located at Broadway and 64th Street. Behind the reception area is a maze of offices, conference rooms and records rooms where the 20 staff members, managers and office workers move to the buzz of their designated jobs. But Wolfe is quick to point out, "We're not your typical corporation. We treat everyone here the same. Everybody's a team player," says Wolfe. "Our underlying philosophy is to respect the fact that we are caring for people's homes. Our goal is to enhance the quality of their lives. We'll do everything from unplugging a toilet to managing a multi-million dollar property. We hold weekly meetings where we network about special problems. Instruction is part of our weekly format. I'll bring in lawyers, engineers, architects, elevator specialists, and the like, to keep us on top of our game."

Born to Manage
Wolfe cut his teeth on property management as a child, helping his father operate rental properties in Woodside, Flushing and Far Rockaway. "We did everything," says Wolfe. "We acted as supers, rent collectors, managers; everything. That's where I learned the hands-on approach to management." Wolfe relates how in the late 70s and early 80s many of the buildings he and his father owned went co-op. When that happened, he learned the fundamentals of his present trade. At 23, Wolfe spotted a New York Times ad for a property manager in the Lincoln Center area. "Why not?" he thought. "I like the area. I'm gonna give it a shot." He interviewed with Robert Mahler, one of the founders of Midboro Management. Mahler remembers his first impressions of Wolfe with affection and admiration. "Michael had a great personality and great background. He knew and understood the mechanics of a building. He wasn't afraid of hard work. He's still that way."

Midboro was founded in 1963, ironically the year Michael Wolfe was born. When Wolfe joined Midboro, the firm had only four employees managing seven buildings. By the time Wolfe became a partner in 1990, the firm had grown to nine employees overseeing 23 buildings. Nathan Sudakoff, board member at 333 Central Park West, a 75 unit, pre-war building, recalls the early days with Michael Wolfe. "He was still cutting his teeth when he came to us." He continues, "Do I trust Michael? Yeah, I do. When I have a problem, I call Mike and he steps up to the bat. When we did a two million dollar restoration to the exterior of our building, Midboro brought the support that was needed to get the job done."

In 1993 Robert Mahler made two decisions that would have a strong impact on Wolfe's future. He moved the offices from their original 1,800 square-foot-space at 41 Central Park West to their present Lincoln Center location. He then retired. At age 30, Michael Wolfe bought Midboro Management, becoming its sole shareholder. Mahler never doubted that Wolfe could handle the demands of Midboro's upscale buildings. "The same buildings I managed are still with Michael. I took him to board meetings and introduced the two of us as 'the once and future king.' Every building accepted him and to this day, the successor is very successful."

Impressed by Wolfe's intelligence and personable ways, Carl Wish, whose 51-unit building, at 79th Street and Riverside Drive, has been with Midboro for ten years, says, "He understands the needs of a co-op and its board." Stanley Hochhauser, president of the board at 1140 Fifth Avenue, a building managed by Midboro since 1983, concurs, "They're always at our meetings. They're open to change. If we disagree, they listen." In addition, Hochhauser is impressed with how Midboro deals with financial reports. "We have found that they continue to improve their financial software."

"Michael handles tension between shareholders and management very well. He works well with architects and contractors," says John Werwaiss, board president at 1107 Fifth Avenue.

Midboro uses an in-house C.P.A. to formulate each client's financial statements. "I feel Midboro produces the best budget around," says Wolfe. "The more information you give, the better. I read every single invoice that goes out of this office. I make sure the charge is proper. If I see a bill that's too much, I'll call the vendor. I run each building as if I own it. We present each board with last year's finances, as well as next year's anticipated budget. It makes it easy for the board to know if they need to raise maintenance. There's not a lot of room for error. We make sure that each board is fiscally prudent."

Moving into the Future
"I've invested a lot of money in technology," says Wolfe. "This month I'm investing $40,000 in computer upgrades which will allow every employee to have his or her own e-mail address." In addition, the firm operates a website that is full of helpful information for the seasoned apartment dweller as well as the nervous first-time buyer. The site's many features range from a brief history of the company to a newsletter, to a page detailing up-to-the-minute legal issues affecting co-op and condo residents. A "how can we help you" page provides a direct e-mail link to the company.

About the future, Wolfe says, "One goal I have is the virtual board meeting where board members can be wherever they want to be. The meeting will be conducted in a chat room. That's not far down the road."

Recently Wolfe formed the DAL Mortgage Corporation, named for his children Danielle, Andrew and Lindsey, which provides financing for residential buildings.

When asked about the next decade, Wolfe looks out the window as if the answer lay somewhere beyond his present sixth-story perch. "I see myself with a successful business continuing to service the residential community and guide them to a better quality of life. I'm a family guy. I want my business to prosper and my family to be healthy."

R.T. Livingston is a freelance writer whose time is divided between Ulster County and Tribeca.

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