Ronda Kaysen in Building Operations on December 13, 2012
Firstly, remember that good will doesn't cost anything. Let residents park strollers in the lobby or keep packages and groceries downstairs until they can be brought up later. Losing an elevator is an enormous inconvenience, but a little compassion goes a long way.
"What people want to know is that they're not on their own," observes Bram Fierstein, president of Gramatan Management. "They want to know that there's assistance, that you appreciate the inconvenience and that we're all in this together."
Trudging groceries up six flights of stairs for a month, for example, can make anyone irritable. However, condo and co-op board members and property managers can curb the rage by keeping residents in the know. If building management can help residents understand that the enormous inconvenience will ultimately make their lives more convenient, the payoff can be worth the temporary torment. The board, through building management, should "explain that you're sensitive to their needs and you know this is a real hardship," says Fierstein.
Elevator modernization projects involve months of planning. Take advantage of the lead-time and use it to inform residents early. Hold a shareholder meeting or send out letters as soon as a contractor has been selected, which is usually about three months before work begins.
And keep communicating. Information reduces angst. Send residents regular updates by e-mail or slip notes under their doors. Post updates in public places — particularly near the offending elevator. Inform the fire department that an elevator will be out of service, especially if elderly residents live in the building or if the building has only one elevator.
Consider the Elderly
For elderly or disabled residents, losing an elevator can be more than an inconvenience — it can be dangerous to their health. Instruct porters to help residents to and from their apartments. Place a chair at every landing so a weary resident can stop and take a break if necessary. But make sure the chair is not a fire safety hazard. Anton Cirulli, managing director of Lawrence Properties, suggests that buildings buy an emergency chair for use in the event that a sick resident needs to be brought downstairs. One co-op in The Bronx installed a second railing on its stairwells so residents who had difficulty walking could hold onto both sides for support.
Porters should check in on elderly residents and could even provide them with temporary cell phones should they get stuck in the stairwell or need assistance getting out of their apartment. The Bronx co-op set up floor representatives on each floor to check in on residents. "It's a great opportunity for community building," says Ann Gordon, the co-op board president.
And ultimately, everyone will appreciate having a modernized, comfortable elevator upgraded to today's enhanced safety standards. As David Goodman, a senior executive at Tudor Realty, says, "Once it's done, all the pain is forgotten. And then you end up with a better elevator."
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