Bill Morris in Building Operations on November 3, 2020
From Manhattan co-ops and condos to the streets of Portland, Ore., to the posh Rodeo Drive shops in Beverly Hills, homeowners and businesses from coast to coast are girding for the possibility of civil unrest following Tuesday’s conclusion of the most bitterly divided election campaign in modern American history.
Times Square, the Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square and designer stores in Soho are among the New York buildings that have been clad in protective plywood – signs of a city that’s still on edge from the rash of vandalism and looting that took place on the fringes of political protests over the summer. Co-op and condo boards, their property managers and supers have taken numerous precautionary steps and advised residents of the possibility of unrest, regardless of who emerges victorious from this toxic political season.
“We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario,” says Kole Palushaj, president of Metro Building Managers of New York, which has a membership of more than 200 supers and residents managers. Measures taken at member buildings include hiring armed security guards, reinforcing front and service entrances, barricading facades to prevent attacks by motor vehicles, installing barbed wire to prevent people from climbing onto sidewalk sheds, and discouraging supers from placing garbage or other flammable objects on the street for pickup.
Steve Greenbaum, senior vice president and director of property management at Charles H. Greenthal, says his company began gearing up two weeks ago, when the New York Police Department advised managers that the department was going on high alert. “We promptly sent a notice out to all our boards and supers, telling them what’s going on,” Greenbaum says. “Some boards have hired security guards, all supers are on standby, we’ve moved heavy objects off the street, and buildings with commercial space are boarded up. We’re being very vigilant."
Gene Ferrara, president of the engineering consultancy JMA Consultants, has advised co-op and condo boards, supers, property managers and others of precautions they should take. “We have been contacted anonymously by concerned members of the NYPD to ask all of our contractors and buildings to assist in making all sites and storage areas on the street ready for possible rioting,” Ferrara wrote in a memo dated Nov. 2. “We ask that all contractors get their dumpsters switched out and leave no debris in them or, if possible, heavy double-tarp the tops. We ask that all stored materials on the closed-off sidewalk and street areas be limited to items too heavy for people to lift and throw, and also please make sure no flammable items are left in these areas. Blind-copied on this email are building owners, board members, building managers, resident managers, contractors and industry professionals so all can assist in this important need.”
Milford Management, one of the largest managing agents of residential real estate in the city, has sent a memo to residents of its buildings advising them on steps the company is taking. “We have, in an overabundance of caution, prepared to address and mitigate any potential impact to your building, all residents and staff,” the company wrote on Nov. 2. Precautions include close communication with local and federal law enforcement, removal of chairs, refuse, planters and other objects from the vicinity of buildings, instructions to staffs to secure building entrances if there is violence in the neighborhood, and the option of bringing in private security services, if necessary.
The jitters appear to be centered in Manhattan. Peter Lehr, director of management at Kaled Management, oversees a portfolio of 59 buildings located mostly in Queens and Brooklyn. “In my blue-collar neighborhoods,” Lehr says, “we’re not doing much of anything. There’s no anxiety where we’re operating.”
But there’s plenty of anxiety in Manhattan – and much of the rest of the nation. At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed: “We’ll be ready for anything.”
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