The long-awaited rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has begun at last, but has gotten off to a decidedly bumpy start. Getting shots to nearly 20 million New Yorkers - twice - has hit snags around everything from the supply chain to equitable distribution to communication about the process. While the state has prioritized certain vulnerable populations, it appears that determining both who to include in those categories and how to get shots in their arms is...complicated.
Essential or Not?
The workers that support and service New York’s many residential buildings and developments have been on the front lines of the pandemic since its arrival a year ago. When New Yorkers were required to stay in their homes as much as possible, these workers were deemed ‘essential,’ putting their own health and safety on the line to ensure that co-ops and condos continued to run smoothly, safely, and to the same standards to which owners and shareholders are accustomed. Often traveling via public transportation or carpool—before masks were mandated (or even widely available)— and social distancing was de rigueur, the state’s porters, janitors, maintenance crews, security personnel, managers, supers, and other property service professionals were a literal lifeline to the residents of the buildings they serve. Hundreds also contracted COVID while performing their jobs; dozens have died.
So it might stand to reason that these workers would be in the first priority brackets for receiving COVID-19 vaccinations - but according to Claudine Gruen, VP and Director of Operations for Garthchester Realty in Westchester, the state has not given authorization to prioritize the building service employees she works with. She and fellow managers are feeling frustrated and forgotten. “I reached out to one of the state senators and they contacted the governor’s office,” she tells CooperatorNews via email. “Needless to say, the response was not favorable.”
In keeping with much of the official communication around the pandemic, however, the answer you get to a particular question depends on who you ask. Albert Mayas, Director of Management, Executive Managing Director, and Executive VP with management firm Charles H. Greenthal & Co., has given the green light to his company’s employees to get vaccinated, based on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s February 11, 2020 executive order designating them as essential workers. “Many of our building staff members have already received their first vaccine dose without any issues,” he tells CooperatorNews. “Their union has also assisted them in obtaining information on vaccinations.”
Although holding a different interpretation of the governor’s orders, Mayas shares the indignation that Gruen and others feel about building service workers being left out of initial distribution phases. “How in the world would we ask building staff to increase their disinfecting processes to keep residents safe, come to work despite a pandemic, have contact with residents, visitors, inspectors, vendors and NOT consider them essential employees?” he asks.