A Question of Security Low-tech Options for Peace of Mind

Since September 11, 2001, most buildings in New York City have taken security and safety measures much more seriously. Although the effects of the terrorist attacks two years ago forced co-op and condo managers and owners to reevaluate safety plans on all properties, building security should not just be limited to protecting the property and tenants from the alarming - if remote - threat of terrorism. "Security" more often means preventing day-to-day crime scenarios, such as unwanted intruders, vandalism and theft.

Deciding what security measures to implement, however, depends on a building's size and budget, as well as the needs of tenants. Even buildings that cannot afford - or do not want - to install state-of-the art security cameras, key tracks or voice systems can still put into action simple, concrete ways of increasing security without all the accoutrements.

Have A Plan

The first, most effective way of creating a security plan is to create a security team and complete a full assessment of your property. Such a team might consist of your managing agent, building staff members, and a few people from the board. After all, who better to perform a security review than the people most intimately familiar with your building? This approach may work well for buildings with security plans and systems that are functioning well already; if your building has been neglecting security issues, or if you feel that your building is at risk for security problems, you might consider enlisting the help of a professional to assess your building and offer your board and management some recommendations for increasing day-to-day safety.

Your board should also consider consulting with a security expert familiar with security issues in co-ops and condos. Once the assessment is complete, many options are available for securing your building. One of the most common security measures is the use of closed circuit video cameras. However, with big brother watching more now than ever before, tenant privacy remains a forefront issue. Fortunately, tenants are becoming more amenable to farther-reaching safety measures - including the addition of security cameras on the premises. "[Today], there's more of a tolerance for intrusion," says Daniel Altman, an attorney and partner at Belkin, Burden, Wenig and Goldman, LLP in Manhattan. "The security is usually outweighed by people's feelings toward privacy. The tenants believe they are doing a greater good for the safety and security of the buildings."

London Terrace Gardens, a 1,000-unit prewar luxury apartment building located just off 23rd Street in the heart of New York City's Chelsea district, has 75 closed circuit televisions as just one piece of their security plan. Cameras are placed in the elevators, lobby and common areas - such as the basement and laundry rooms - and at each entrance.

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