In early April, the Department of Buildings shut down all nonessential or nonemergency construction in New York City in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But what happens when the toilet in your unit floods? Or your circuit breaker trips, and you can’t fix it by following a YouTube video?
Despite repeated warnings to keep six feet away from everyone at all times, residents in co-ops and condos are inevitably going to have to invite a member of the building’s staff or an outside contractor into their units to fix urgent problems. It’s up to the board and management to have policies in place to keep residents and staff safe.
Brendan Keany, the general manager at the 2,820-unit Penn South co-op in Chelsea, has worked with the board to categorize essential repairs, including floods or major leaks, electrical problems and gas leaks. Beyond that, the main priority is reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus when an essential repair needs to be done.
“We’re doing a few things,” Keany says. When the staff member arrives at an apartment, he or she “would ring the bell, ask the resident to open the door and then to step back from the door.
“This allows the maintenance employee to walk in, keeping a decent amount of separation from the shareholder,’’ Keany says. “Once the maintenance employee understands what the problem is, we ask the shareholder to stay in another room while the problem is being fixed. Then we alert them that the problem has been fixed, and the employee leaves the apartment, pulling the door behind them.” Staff members wear masks and gloves and wipe down all of their tools after going into any apartment in the complex.
“We’re trying to follow OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines,” says Keany. “With the coronavirus, we don’t have to tell employees twice.”