Alan Shamah has turned the buildings he manages into one loving community. The tenants see each other as family.
If you're a renter in New York City, it's almost guaranteed you've experienced at least one landlord horror story-- days without heat during the winter months, faulty boilers, poor plumbing, or failing appliances with extended wait times for repairs. But the most common complaint that most all can agree upon is the outrageous rent increases.
In fact, strained landlord-tenant relationships have become the ire of so many New York City residents, food trucks park outside of the housing court where lines have been known to wrap around the block.
However, there's at least one landlord with properties in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey who is trying to change the negative perception that New York City landlords are heartless money grubbers. His name is Alan Shamah of Shamco Management.
A native of Brooklyn, Shamah reached out to BK Reader around Christmas to say he had seen our story in Crain's NY Business. He said he loved the work we were doing, and he wondered if there was a way we could partner to further build and strengthen the community.
For his part, Shamah has started a blog on the management company's website where he refers to his company as "a service organization," and where he regularly shares stories with his residents-- tips and anecdotes on how to navigate through life with success. The most recent post he added to his blog was a reminder to his residents that tax time is coming, with a link of locations where they can file for free.
During the warmer months, it's not unusual to see Shamah hanging outside of his buildings, chatting with his tenants or attempting to hoola hoop with the children in the courtyard. And he loves to forge partnerships: He has partnered with Chashama.org an art organization that provides artists with space to paint etc, as well as to display their work. And, most recently, he has secured a partnership with the YearUp program to bring job training and mentorship into his building for teens preparing to enter the workforce.
[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]"I felt there was a need to get people together. It's very easy to become isolated living in-- not just New York City-- but anywhere," said Alan Shamah. [/perfectpullquote]
Shamah credits his father, from whom he inherited the properties, for showing the importance of a healthy tenant-landlord relationship: "In those days, there was a connection between the tenants and my father. He used to sit down and have coffee with them and, they knew each other," he said. "But by the time I came into the business in 2007, I found that there was a disconnect happening between the tenants and the management company, on the human side."
Shamah said he believes that smartphones and social media have created a society where people are less social, less connect, and so have forgotten the importance of building community.
"We were doing the repairs and taking care of tenant issues, or if they had questions about their leases, but the human side needed to be beefed up," he said. "I felt there was a need to get people together. It's very easy to become isolated living in-- not just New York City-- but anywhere. And I felt a need to create community in any way that I can."
Shamah has turned his buildings into one loving community. The tenants see each other as family.
This past Christmas, he hosted a series of holiday parties in each of his buildings where he hired musicians (a tenant that he learned was a part of a band) to get everyone dancing and mingling. But most important, he said, he wanted to make sure no one spent the holidays alone.
"There are other ideas that I have that I would like to implement at our buildings to create an inspiring place to live, that would include local non-profits, dance studies, Brooklyn College and more," he said.
You don't get a sense that Alan Shamah feels at all obligated to do what he does; he genuinely loves spending time with the tenants and wants to see them excel: "If you look on the Shamco website, you'll see me there, dancing up a storm with the tenants," he said smiling, almost embarrassed. "I don't think you can fake that."
After learning about everything Shamah was doing to build community, I told him there really wasn't anything I could do that he wasn't doing already except, of course, tell his story.
"A story about me?" he asked nervously. "But it's not about me. It's about this community."
At the most, I told him, it would help change the narrative that New York City landlords don't care. And at the very least, it might inspire other property owners to view their tenants differently, with the same respect they would extend to their own family.
Because at the end of the day, isn't that what community is? One big, crazy, caring and diverse set of people you call family.