Given the current frenzy to combine and renovate apartments in New York city co-ops and condos, it’s no longer possible for boards to keep the peace simply by implementing and enforcing a strict alterations policy. The times call for pre-emptive diplomacy, too.
“We just began handling a 16-unit condo building on West 89th Street in Manhattan,” says Georgia Lombardo-Barton, president of Barton Management. “There’s a woman living there who owns two apartments, which are valued at $10 million. She wanted to do a renovation in her bathroom. We knew that there was going to be a lot of noise, and it would probably travel throughout the building.”
Rather than simply hope for the best, Lombardo-Barton swung into action. Before construction started, she sent a warning to all unit-owners. “It said: ‘Just be aware, there will be noisy construction going on, so please remain patient during this period of renovation. If you have any questions, any issues, please let us know.’”
Experience has taught Lombardo-Barton that simply being made aware of impending inconvenience makes many shareholders and unit-owners less likely to lodge complaints. It’s the value of pre-emptive diplomacy: it doesn’t lessen the noise, but it eliminates surprises and helps people prepare, psychologically, for a disruption to the building’s peace and quiet.
“The key to having a peaceful existence is to communicate regularly and often,” Lombardo-Barton says. “On noisy projects especially, you should be giving (residents) regular updates, letting them know where things are going, and how they’re going. Then they’re very happy. They want to hear from the managing agent. They want to be informed.”
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