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The Wellston’s Automatic Doors Are an Idea Whose Time Has Come

Paula Chin in Building Operations on December 28, 2020

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Condo board, automatic doors, package deliveries, COVID-19, prewar building, Upper West Side.

Board president Josh Wiener (left), the new automatic doors, and (right) the Wellston.

Dec. 28, 2020

As Josh Wiener, the board president, saw it, the prewar Wellston wasn’t putting its best face forward. The doors at the two entrances of the block-through, 130-unit condop on the Upper West Side were in serious disrepair.

“The hinges were in bad shape, and the doors were badly rusted at the bottom,” Wiener says. “Because they’re made of steel, glass and wrought iron, they’re heavy, and it was difficult to push or pull the doors open.”

One day, while walking past the Apple Bank at Broadway and 73rd Street – a classical prewar building that was formerly the Central Savings Bank – Wiener noticed that the original doors, which were similar to the Wellston’s, had been replaced with automatic ones. “I looked at other buildings that had them and saw that they require a strong motor that is quite large,” says Wiener, who is president of Silver Lining, a general contractor specializing in high-end residential properties. “I figured we’d only need to automate the right door at each entrance, but even so there had to be enough room to house all the machinery.”

The only way to know that, however, was to chop open the plaster and take a look. After proposing his plan to the board, Wiener got the go-ahead to proceed and found that the installation was doable. Wiener then met with Wellston’s property manager, Robert Grant, a director at Midboro Management, and asked him to start searching for contractors. “We not only had to find the right automated devices and equipment,” Grant says, “but in order for the doors to properly open, we also had to re-level the vestibule floor slab, which had settled after nearly 100 years. And on top of that, both sets of doors had to be completely restored.”

After soliciting multiple bids, the board chose the MacKenzie Door Company, a Manhattan contractor that uses Stanley mechanical openers, and Wainlands, a Queens architectural metalwork manufacturer and restorer specializing in decorative designs.

“The project required a lot of scheduling and coordinating on Robert’s part, including with the super, who ended up playing the role of a mini-general contractor,” Wiener says. 

It took two weeks to re-level the floors, install the electric machinery and mount the doors. The entire project, which cost a relatively modest $114,000, was completed in the fall of 2019. The doors can be opened using push buttons on the wall both inside and outside the building, and the doormen have remote controls as well. “It’s been a huge hit, and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments,” Wiener says. “People don’t have to struggle anymore, especially when they’ve got packages. And now that the doors are automated, it’s improved the flow of package deliveries as well.”

There has been another upside that no one could have anticipated when the board decided to undertake this project. “In hindsight, the timing couldn’t have been better in terms of the coronavirus,” Wiener says. “We did this before the pandemic hit in March, when people were afraid to touch the handles or push the doors. Even now, the less you have to touch, the better.”

Timing is everything, as the residents of the Wellston have learned. And it doesn’t hurt to get lucky every once in a while.

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