This month’s FM spotlight is Katy Ostrander, Facilities Manager for an affordable housing mortgage lender, The Community Preservation Corporation.
Katy manages a 40,000 square feet central office with a budget of $6 million, along with six field offices throughout the State of New York. She negotiates leases, maintains vendor relationships, designs build outs, oversees building/systems maintenance and a fleet of inspection vehicles, on top of planning events, managing the mail room, kitchen and reception services, all the while having an eye for sustainable practices at every turn.
“Katy brings a very high level of enthusiasm to her job. She is not afraid to try something new and is always eager to share her ideas with others.” Jeff Ely, Senior Vice President, Administration - The Community Preservation Corporation
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I guess only a few people know my family owned and ran a small motel in Glacier National Park, MT. My parents were teachers on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and the summer season was so short in the Rockies that they could run the business in the warmer months as a supplemental income. I gained my earliest Facilities Management experience climbing under the cabins with my dad, helping him with plumbing and painting, and helping my mom with the reservations, running the cash register in the gift shop, and dealing with both customers and vendors all day. It was a family business, so it was all hands on deck.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?
“Coercion. I resisted for years. All jokes aside, I was already project managing in Operations at my company, when my COO and the former Facilities Manager, cornered me. They knew I had spent the last few years before starting at CPC working in Interior Design. Combined with four years in Investment Banking, a parallel career in Film & Television and the Restaurant experience that most artists gain to support their passion, I had the kind of diverse background that makes me as comfortable on a job-site, or crawling around in the eaves of a building, as I am in a corporate setting, presenting to an executive audience.
I love problem-solving and I love listening to people, so Facilities Management offers me daily opportunities to improve people's lives. I get to improve efficiency and support their needs using technical and creative solutions, gleaned from my background. It is amazing how even subtle changes in lighting and creative use of space can offer drastic changes to people’s well-being and improve the efficiency of their workflow.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“My most recent challenge was designing an ADA compliant solution for our bathroom sinks. Designing solutions on a blank slate, for a space that hasn't been built yet – the possibilities are endless. Retrofitting a solution for an existing space that is fraught with problems poses a far more interesting challenge. We had exposed pipes under the sinks, and needed a visual barrier that allowed daily access for the cleaning crew to refill the soap dispensers, while also accommodating for wheelchair clearance under the sinks. We rigged a system using L-brackets that dropped down from the underside of the sink counter and extended to below the sink basins. We attached hinges to those so the privacy panels could easily fold forward. Then, instead of using cumbersome latches, I found some neodymium magnets online rated for 30 lbs. and countersunk them into the panels for cleaner lines, easy one-handed usage and an overall minimalist approach. My building engineers are so thrilled, they are implementing it in other bathrooms in the building. We’ve all been ‘geeking out’ over the magnets.”
What is your greatest success story?
“I work at an affordable housing mortgage lender. When the housing market buckled, we were faced with a complete corporate restructuring to accommodate the changing policies and legislation happening nationwide. As a Facilities Manager, I had to put together a five-year savings plan, that included several office closures, a drastic reduction of our fleet of inspection vehicles and a proposal to sublet our Central Office space for a profit and combine staff from multiple offices into a smaller footprint. I negotiated early buyouts on multiple leases throughout the City and State of New York, and teed up a mid-town, downtown and "stay put in half our space" options for the new CEO and Board to consider in their 2-year business plan. In the end, I recouped close to $1 million in expenses and poised the company for an additional savings of $2.5 million.
The decision was made not to move Central Office, but to absorb the Brooklyn and Bronx Field Offices. The real success of this effort was the personal thank you’s I received from all the employees who suddenly found themselves commuting to a new location, for integrating their teams and their work belongings into the new space, with thoughtful consideration for the systems they had in place for years.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“I am the Facilities Manager, i.e., the "jack of all trades". It is my job to wear multiple hats and speak in tongues, and describing the physical world in corporate terms is always a challenge. There is underlying knowledge in the language of an engineer or plumber that doesn't always translate in a Board meeting, and vice versa when an executive initiative inspires an overhaul or reconfiguration of our space. As liaison to the trades, I must manage what seems like chaos to a finance mind, and impose a level of visual order without impeding what is just a day in the life of a plumber or electrician who needs to see all their wires, pipes and tools laid out while they troubleshoot the surprises in the walls or dropped ceilings. Timelines at the executive level are driven by goals that may not have considered the obstacles of the physical systems or processes that need to be completed for the deadlines to be met. I work hard to reconcile the two.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“The Evergreen Clause. New York State will not recognize autorenewal on a contract unless the vendor has sent written notification of its intention to auto renew within 15 days of that autorenewal date. You can sign a contract that is written to be utilized in multiple states that has that autorenewal policy written into the language, but it is unenforceable unless they have sent written word.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary