It seemed to come out of nowhere, and hit the city like a whirlwind. As grim daily reports rolled in from China, Italy, and other hard-hit countries, Americans—and perhaps in particular New Yorkers, those most intrepid of city dwellers—watched from afar as COVID-19 closed down entire nations. It still seemed so far away...until it wasn’t. Once the pandemic crashed into New York, the gravity of the situation became far more real—more akin to a flash flood or tsunami.
Analysis of our city, state, and nation’s response to this unprecedented crisis will take years—as will recovery from its impact. There are so many questions; among them, how is the co-op and condominium community doing? Were managers and boards prepared? Were efforts to stop the wave—or even just slow it—successful? That’s something we won’t have an answer to for a while, but the professionals tasked with keeping the city’s multifamily communities functioning are making decisions all day, every day to cope with the crisis and keep their communities as safe as possible.
Daniel Wollman, CEO of Gumley Haft, a Manhattan-based co-op and condo management firm, describes his company’s response to the situation so far: “The day-to-day function of our buildings is, of course, affected in ways we could never have imagined,” he says. “It’s like a Twilight Zone [episode]—and we’re looking forward to the end of the episode. Buildings are on virtual lockdown. Amenity spaces are closed.”
As for the residents, Wollman continues, “Imagine living in a beautiful building, and yet you’re unable to utilize all of the comforts and amenities it has to offer. Our residents are practicing social distancing. They’re not congregating in public spaces. They ride the elevator alone, or only with family members. Obviously, deliveries are not as convenient as they should be. And there’s a somber mood among neighbors after being in their apartments all day long.” Additionally, he adds, “We have to continually explain to residents what our mandates are for trying to tamp down the virus,” as new information and federal and state guidelines and orders filter in daily.
Despite this very challenging new reality, “The day-to-day operations of our properties are being met,” says Greg Cohen, president of Impact Management, with offices in Manhattan, Long island, Queens, and Westchester. “The governor clearly mandated that building personnel are essential. The trash is being removed, the common areas are being kept clean, and building mechanics like boilers and elevators are being maintained. We’re limiting the need for building personnel to enter the apartments to emergency situations only, and have also mandated that all construction be halted.” That includes work on individual apartments, except for emergency situations. This will delay projects such as Local Law 11 work, boiler conversions, elevator modernizations, and other major-but-not-immediately-crucial capital projects slated to begin or already underway at many buildings.