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The Paper Trail

The board president of the Manhattan Upper West Side co-op was up early, as was her wont, working in her home office, when she heard a terrific crashing noise outside her door. On investigating, she saw the smashed remains of an expensive wall sconce covering a rolled-up copy of The New York Times. She quickly deduced what had happened: “The guy who delivers, instead of putting the newspaper by the door or giving it a reasonable throw to the door, had just lobbed it up – much too high – and hit the lamp.”

While it doesn’t rate as highly as terrorism or even lobby redesign on the hot topics list of most boards and their managers, some think that co-ops and condos should be concerned about their early morning paper deliveries. “These delivery people obviously have a key, but nobody in our building knows how they got it or what the arrangement is,” says the Upper West Side president. “They get in very early in the morning – these people we know very little about – and have access to the whole building. They can do anything they like, basically. Just think about what they could be doing.”

Security is the main concern most often cited by professionals. “There is a huge turnover in this business – one person may be good and another person not so good,” notes Steve Greenbaum, director of management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate. “There are security issues.” Adds another agent: “After 9/11, everyone became hypersensitive as to who was in the building.”
Because of fears of vandalism or lesser nuisances (menus being stuck under the doors), many doorman buildings prohibit all messengers from going beyond the lobby. In such properties, the newspapers are often left at the front desk, to be picked up by residents on their way out, or else they are distributed by the staff. “We don’t just send a delivery person throughout the building to deliver papers,” says Lynn Whiting, director of management at Argo. “Residents don’t like the security aspect of letting the delivery people go through the building, especially if they are delivering multiple papers. They’d be on all the floors. It’s a security issue.”

Non-doorman properties are a different story altogether. Some non-doorman buildings require that papers be left in the vestibule, meaning that residents have to go downstairs and collect the papers themselves. In other properties, tenants have given the carriers keys, and there are often objections. “Buildings have enacted policies forbidding that,” notes Whiting, who says that high turnover of delivery personnel could mean that keys end up in the wrong hands. “There is no way of keeping track of all those keys,” she says, except if you utilize a “restricted key” – one which is distributed by the manager or super and can only be duplicated using a key code.
That isn’t a problem, however, at buildings with electronic locks, which require a swipe card for entry. “If they lose the card, you just change the entrance code,” says Ira Meister, president of Matthew Adam Properties.

Another issue, says Greenbaum, is residents who go on a journey and don’t suspend their delivery service – meaning that papers pile up outside the door, which could clue in burglars that the coast is clear or create a tripping hazard during a fire or emergency.

Then there is the noise question. One manager recalls a deliveryman who would take the elevator to the top floor and then walk down, dropping off the papers on each floor. He made his presence felt because he let the stairwell doors slam – at 5:30 in the morning.

(A spokesman for The New York Times said there have been few complaints of vandalism or security breaches in the last 12 months, and that their delivery personnel are instructed to be aware of – and follow the rules of – each particular building.)

While not minimizing security concerns, Greenbaum, in the final analysis, says that, in his experience, bad behavior by newspaper delivery people is the exception rather than the rule. “Residents generally don’t mind about the delivery people because no one really sees them; they’re very elusive. They’re there at four or five o’clock in the morning and they’re usually very quiet and respectful. They quietly walk in and quietly walk out. They mind their own business.”

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