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Co-ops and Condos Inch Toward Reopening Amenities

New York City

Amenities, coronavirus shutdown, social distancing, co-ops and condos.

A shareholder wanted to borrow an exercise bike from the co-op gym. The answer was no.

May 5, 2020

While several states are moving ahead with partial reopenings after mandated shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic – to the horror of many medical professionals – New York City remains under state-mandated distancing rules. Yet co-op and condo boards – and their buildings’ residents – are itching to make use of prized amenities. To that end, a financial district condominium has reopened one of its roof decks, making the space available in hour-long shifts with no more than six people outside at a time wearing masks and gloves, the New York Times reports. And a large Riverdale co-op is working out a plan to open its pool this summer.

“Clearly people want to get out and they want fresh air, but we’re concerned about social distancing,” says Michael Wolfe, the president of Midboro Management.

Management companies are laying the groundwork for a different kind of normal that could unfold once stay-at-home orders are relaxed or lifted. For instance, the roof deck may open – but without any seating or barbecues. Residents may be assigned specific days to use the pool – and have to stand or sit in spots marked out on the deck at safe distances. Gyms may be reconfigured physically and temporally – with increased space between workout equipment and staggered workout times.

Of all the amenities, gyms are the ones people confined to their apartments seem to miss the most. In some condos and co-ops, residents have asked to take weights and other equipment up to their apartments. Wolfe received one request to borrow a Peloton bike. His answer was no.

Other shareholders and unit-owners have asked that amenity fees be waived during the shutdown. If amenity fees are baked into monthly maintenance or common charges, some have asked for discounts or credits. While a few developers are waiving amenity fees, most buildings are not. “Right now we’re not thinking about it,” says Dan Wurtzel, the president of FirstService Residential New York, “because our priority is to find a way to reopen them as soon as we can.”  

When they do reopen, keeping them clean and safe will require some care. “Some of the weight equipment may be six feet apart, certainly the cardio equipment isn’t and what do you do with that?” says John Janangelo, an executive managing director of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

Equipment needs to be wiped down between each use. But co-op and condo gyms are rarely staffed, so buildings would have to trust residents to properly clean the equipment. Playrooms may face a similar challenge. Aside from making sure little children practice social distancing, someone would also have to check that an indoor jungle gym was wiped down after each use.

That, with luck, will soon become the new normal.

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