By Joanne Kaufman
May 6, 2021
On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that come May 19, restaurants, stores, museums, offices, health clubs and barbershops in New York City would be permitted to operate at full capacity for the first time since restrictions were put in place more than a year ago to stem the spread of Covid-19.
It’s great news, of course, and many want to celebrate. That desire explains the load of calls already fielded by the property manager at the Dime, a rental building in Williamsburg, from tenants eager to book the Havemeyer Lounge on the building’s 22nd floor for dance parties.
But many in the real estate management business don’t seem to be tossing all their concerns away and joining the festivities just yet.
“Most of our buildings have amenity spaces, and if they’re closed now they’ll open at limited capacity,” said Michael Rogoff, the president of the property management firm AKAM, which oversees 270 rentals, condos and co-ops in New York City. “But I can’t imagine any residential building rushing to loosen Covid rules and opening up 100 percent.
“When you’re dealing with people’s homes and there’s no economic advantage to relaxing protocols, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Mr. Rogoff added. “It’s about people and their families feeling safe.”
For its part, Local 32BJ of the Service Workers International Union, which represents building service workers, “has encouraged employers to find incentives that will encourage and make it easier for employees to get the Covid-19 vaccines,” said Kyle Bragg, 32BJ’s president. “We don’t think mandates work as well as incentives.”
In March, Mr. Cuomo signed legislation giving public and private employees four hours of excused leave per injection — leave that could not be charged against any other time off the employee had earned or accrued. Some buildings are, reportedly, offering staff members a $100 to $200 vaccine bonus.
The decline in Covid cases and the increasing rate of vaccinations undoubtedly influenced the governor’s decision to open the city.
“I’m sure that some buildings like not having delivery people roam the halls and may continue with their policy of not allowing them beyond the lobby,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate lawyer.
The Upper East Side co-op where Sharon Fahy is the president of the co-op board plans to continue temperature checks “until we’re in a safer spot,” said Ms. Fahy, an associate broker at the real estate firm Brown Harris Stevens. The building will also continue a requirement that shareholders’ housekeepers fill out Covid-19 employee self-certification forms when they first return to work in the building.
Clorox, Zep and Lysol will also still be in heavy rotation. Some buildings are even doubling down. The superintendent of one Upper East Side co-op said that building staff was actually disinfecting more often now than at the beginning of the pandemic because while only 30 percent of the residents were in the building last year, many who left for second homes have since returned to the city.
It’s about public health of course. It’s about not letting our guard down. But it’s also about home comfort. “We have gotten into a rhythm of running the building in a certain way,” said Nicholas R. Silvers, a founding partner of Tavros Holdings, one of the developers of the Dime. “Most of our tenants are reassured by it and depend on our diligence.”