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Some New York City apartment dwellers prefer to live without doormen, citing privacy concerns, smalltalk avoidance, cheaper space, and lighter holiday tipping.
Many others put "doorman" right up there next to heat and hot water and, we wager, might even overlook a questionable side job like accepting packages for a mob-run drug smuggling ring.
If you're on the hunt for a doorman building, do not assume that the uniformed staff member in the lobby is a doorman--not even if your real estate agent casually refers to the building as "24/7 doorman."
The fact is that opening doors, announcing visitors, helping with packages, or handing your keys to the dog walker may or may not fall within the job description of the uniformed staffer in question.
Here’s a quick rundown of the possibilities:
Doormen are expensive ($70k+ a year including benefits if the belong the union, which most do), so some buildings choose to employ what is colloquially known as a “rent-a-cop”($30-$35k a year, with benefits covered by the company that technically employs the security guard).
They add a layer of security, not service. In fact, many residents complain their security guards "just sit there" and don't even announce guests. That's pretty much all most security guards are required to do.
“Security guards don’t have to hail cabs, lift up strollers, or take packages,” says Paul Zweben, a real estate broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman, though, he adds, "if you take care of them"--(tipping-wise)--"they’ll often do whatever you want."
There are still a few smaller, prewar buildings with manual elevators that need an attendant to operate them 24/7. If the building also lacks a doorman—or only employs a part-time doorman, as many smaller buildings do--elevator attendants may toggle between elevator and door duties. That means the front door is only attended intermittently, which can be problem for package delivery and security, especially during rush hour.
(On a side note, if you dread making conversation with a doorman everytime you enter and exit the lobby, the hothouse environment of an attended elevator is probably not for you. Ditto privacy concerns.)
Typically ensconced behind a counter or desk in the lobby, concierges are more common in higher-end buildings and fall into two categories.
There’s the “old school," says Zweben, who accept packages and drycleaning, and there are the more proactive, service-oriented concierges frequently found in newer buildings, who will make dinner reservations, book theater tickets, and coordinate with your cleaning lady.
Though both will keep your life running more smoothly, neither will open the door or unload the trunk of your car.
Okay, you won’t actually see a remote doorman in your lobby, since in this case the front door is controlled offsite, by a company that watches and communicates through audio-visual equipment installed at the door and at strategic security points throughout the building.
Though a remote doorman can’t walk your dog at lunch, it can report on how long Fluffy's walk lasted with the dog walker and let you in if you’re locked out.
Remote doorman systems can be quite sophisticated—including, for example, a remote controlled package room in your lobby to accept delivery of your drycleaning, Fresh Direct, etc.
These systems are also an affordable way for smaller buildings to provide many of the services of a doorman at a fraction of the cost.
Introverts will love this option. Another bonus: For practical reasons, a remote doorman can’t accept tips—holiday or otherwise.