HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

Packages Go From Headache to Terrorist Threat

Bill Morris in Building Operations on November 1, 2018

New York City

Suspicious Packages

The NYPD's flyer on how to identify a suspicious package.

Nov. 1, 2018

For co-op and condo boards and their building staffs, handling the rising deluge of package deliveries has become a logistical headache. Now it has also become a security concern. 

After authorities arrested Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc in Florida last week and charged him with sending 15 mail bombs to the homes and offices of critics of the president – including CNN and the actor Robert DeNiro in New York City, and Hillary Clinton and liberal billionaire George Soros in suburban New York – co-op and condo property managers have begun taking steps to increase the vigilance of building staffs and educate them on how to spot suspicious packages. 

Dan Wollman, chief executive of the management company Gumley Haft, says door people and concierges at some of the company’s buildings have been instructed to call residents when a package arrives for them rather than sending the package directly to their apartments.

“I can’t think in recent memory having done something like this,” Wollman told the Real Deal. “We are no longer, in certain buildings, giving the packages unless that person is called and says it’s ok to accept the package.” The screenings were instituted at a dozen of the company’s buildings last week, immediately after a bomb was discovered at the home of Soros, who has donated lavishly to Democratic candidates and is demonized by some of the far right as the mastermind of a left-wing “globalist” movement.

The New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau has instituted a program called SHIELD, designed to enlist the private sector in the fight against terrorist threats. To that end, SHIELD is circulating an illustrated flyer with this description of potentially dangerous packages: “Characteristics of suspicious packages include protruding wires, excessive or missing postage stamps, strange odors, oily stains on wrappers, and addresses that are misspelled, poorly typed, or nameless.” 

The bombs allegedly sent by Sayoc met several of those criteria. 

When the flyer came to the attention of a property manager at Orsid Realty, he passed it along to Farhan Naseer, an account executive, who sent it to all 160 properties managed by Orsid. 

“We’ve asked our managers to circulate the flyer to all the buildings’ staffs and make sure they’re aware what a suspicious package looks like,” Naseer says. “Letters are delivered to mailboxes, but large packages are dropped at the front desk. If a package fits the description, the door staff is under orders to notify the resident manager or call 911. After these recent incidents, everyone’s being more vigilant.” 

Federal prosecutors have labelled the recent flurry of mail bombs a “domestic terrorist attack.” Given that more than 100 potential targets were discovered on Sayoc’s laptop, authorities speculate that more bombs could still be making their way through the mail. On Monday, after Sayoc was in custody, a package believed to be from him arrived at CNN offices in Atlanta. Prosecutors say the devices were packed with shards of glass to maximize damage. None of the devices exploded. 

James O’Neill, commissioner of the NYPD, stresses the high value the department places on communicating with homeowners, co-op and condo boards, and their property managers: “We want you to help us keep everyone safe by maintaining a watchful eye for anything suspicious – because you know your buildings and your immediate neighborhoods better than anyone.”

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