As New York City’s reopening picks up steam, co-op and condo boards and their property managers are finding themselves cast in the unfamiliar role of traffic cops. They have to decide which apartment renovations and alterations can move ahead first, and how those projects can proceed with a minimum of risk and inconvenience to residents, building staffs and construction workers.
“Just because the city says it's OK, that doesn't necessarily mean that the building has to let everybody do everything at the same time,” says Mark Levine, a principal at the management company EBMG. “We want to manage it proactively and make sure that we do it in such a way that everybody stays safe. Because each alteration requires elevator usage, you have to schedule it in such a way that you're not affecting the overall health of the building.”
Levine and other property managers agree that in buildings with multiple projects on hold, it’s necessary to establish priorities on which ones get to reboot first. But from there differences of opinion arise.
“The projects that are closest to completion – they’re the ones that get to go ahead first,” says Peter Lehr, the director of management at Kaled Management. “With more difficult projects, we might have to take into consideration when the contractor needs to shut off the electricity, and how they’re going to sanitize the areas they’re in.”
Levine, on the other hand, takes the view that big jobs should move to the front of the line. “Priorities are put into place based on the job’s necessity,” he says. “Habitation takes place over cosmetic issues.”
Numerous management companies and attorneys have prepared riders and addenda to alteration agreements, which apartment owners and contractors must sign before beginning alteration projects – or before they’re allowed to restart projects. EBMG’s rider touches on such issues as allowable work hours, elevator usage, building access, hand-washing facilities and daily temperature checks for crews. Levine adds that another consideration is inconvenience for neighbors. “With so many people now working at home,” he says, “we need to be cognizant of noise.”
There is virtually unanimous agreement that boards and property managers must reserve the right to shut down a job if an apartment owner or contractor fails to observe safety protocols.
“Our COVID-19 addendum to the alteration agreement outlines that they're required to follow all the safety and social-distancing protocols,” says Mark Hoffman, the president of Hoffman Management. “And it provides protection to the boards to stop any job at any time.”