As New Yorkers brace themselves for the spread of the novel coronavirus, some NYC apartment buildings are preparing for staffing shortages and being advised to consider plans similar to strike preparation measures—where residents take over for sick or absent workers.
In a memo distributed today to the boards of 85 apartment buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and reviewed by Brick Underground, Alex Kalajian, the CEO of Solstice Residential Group, tells board members to “prepare for the possibility of a reduction in workforce” as employees begin to call out sick, schools close, and building staff need to “take care of infected or affected family members.”
The memo says residents may need to volunteer to handle essential building services like “security, lobby coverage, mail sorting, and garbage collection,” and they should anticipate the closure of amenities like gyms, pools, and playrooms. Non-essential deliveries and a temporary halt to renovations may also become necessary to limit the number of non-residents who come inside the building, the memo says.
The measures mimic steps taken during collective bargaining negotiations and union strikes.
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The Department of Health continues to say the risk to New Yorkers of contracting the novel coronavirus is low. Daniel Wollman, CEO of New York property management company Gumley Haft, says his company does not anticipate residents taking over day-to-day building employee responsibilities.
“A situation such as a strike-reduction level of employees in our buildings can only be described as a worst-case scenario, and we are not there yet,” he says.
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Aside from any staffing challenges, Kalajian says buildings should also prepare for “delays in obtaining essential outside building services including mechanical systems, building supplies, trades for general repairs and maintenance and other outside services such as sanitation.” In addition, capital improvements to boilers and elevators, for example, may be delayed.
Property managers acknowledge the situation is rapidly evolving and they are closely monitoring information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Peter von Simson, CEO of New Bedford Management, says neither “city officials nor the CDC are recommending any drastic changes to travel within the city or building operations at this time.” He points out if the situation changes, his building staff is prepared to adjust accordingly.
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