New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Being in a condo means being a good neighbor.
A Queens board president discusses how an emergency situation can be handled just by being a good neighbor.
President, Bayside Mews Condominium, Queens
I am president of a 142-unit condo in Queens and have lived here for 15 years, 14 of which as board president.
The condo has a number of one-bedroom units, each occupied by just one person. Recently, we had what I would consider a humanitarian crisis. A middle-aged resident living alone had a medical emergency on a weekend. (We later learned that it was a heart attack.) This person evidently could not reach a phone and did not have an emergency “pendant.” She started banging on the walls on Sunday – the downstairs neighbor thought that someone was doing illegal construction on a weekend and reported it to the weekend management answering service. Because construction is not an emergency, this was not reported to the superintendent or the management company. (We now are receiving a copy of the call log each weekend.)
Things were quiet until early Wednesday morning, when the downstairs neighbor again heard banging. At 7 A.M. on the way out of the building, the neighbor then heard screaming from the unit. The superintendent and 911 were called. Fortunately, the superintendent had keys to the unit and entered. The individual was found lying on the floor. This person had been calling for help since Sunday – by banging on walls and throwing over a table. It was now Wednesday morning.
This was a very sad situation, with blame to go around – and yet blame cannot be assigned to any one person. When we live in an apartment building, we live in a collective. While we need to respect each other’s privacy, we also need to take notice when we see or hear something out of the ordinary.
If you see mail or packages piling up in front of someone’s door, report it to the superintendent. If you hear ongoing, unusual noises, you should also report that to the superintendent. Don’t say, “Oh, I’m sure someone else will call,” because they may not. I won’t say that someone should make a call if a neighbor hasn’t been seen in a while, because we often don’t see neighbors for days on end. I certainly don’t.
This situation reinforces the concept that a superintendent should have a set of keys to every unit as well as emergency contact information. We have requested emergency information from our residents on several occasions, and there still are some who will not provide any information. Even fines don’t help to get the information. We told the superintendent that if there is ever a problem where we cannot gain access and have no emergency information, to call 911 and the manager.
We have circulated a letter to all residents with some tips:
• If you live alone, have a “buddy” who has your keys. Let the superintendent know which neighbor has your keys.
• If you are going away for more than a day or two, tell your “buddy.”
• Update your emergency information regularly.
• Keep a phone where it can be easily reached if you fall.
In short: be smart and be a good neighbor!
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