New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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How Renovations Rebooted in a Brooklyn Condo

Paula Chin in COVID-19 on July 9, 2020

DUMBO, Brooklyn

Apartment alterations, COVID-19 shutdown, safety protocols, condo board.

Cooperation from the contractor and a well-trained staff are keys to restarting renovations safely.

July 9, 2020

Georgia Lombardo-Barton, the property manager of a condominium on Bridge Street in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, can add a new skill set to her resume: traffic cop. At the six-story, 100-unit building, four major apartment renovations had been put on hold during the nonessential construction shutdown, but with the city’s phased reopening, the projects are gearing back up. And Lombardo-Barton has mapped a clear plan of action to ensure that everything runs smoothly – and, even more important, safely.

“The first step was having a discussion with the board on exactly how we would proceed,” says Lombardo-Barton, president of Barton Management. “These are just short of gut renovations, and we were already in the demolition stage, so staggering the projects, rather than doing all four at once, seemed the most prudent.”

Lombardo-Barton drew up a safety protocol using the New York State Department of Health business reopening safety plan as a template. “I contacted each of the unit-owners and sent them the form, which they had to send to their contractors and subcontractors,” she says. “They had to submit the paperwork to our office before they could proceed.”

The next step was controlling the workflow. “We allowed only two of the apartments to resume the renovations, and allowed only two crew members per apartment, at least for the first two weeks,” she says. “That gave us time to train the staff on the daily regimen of logging in each employee, taking their temperature, verifying that they had the proper personal protective equipment, and stopping by the apartments once a day to make sure everyone was in compliance.”

While Lombardo-Barton designated a point person for the job – in this case, the condo’s assistant super, whose schedule was changed from weekends to weekdays. A backup plan was put in place. “We wanted to make sure the concierge and other supers knew the process, just in case there was a day he was out,” Lombardo-Barton says.

But even the best-laid plans can require fine-tuning. “We soon realized we didn’t want workers coming in and out of the building, or going up and down in the freight elevator, more than once a day,” she says. “So we started asking them to bring in their lunch and beverages.”

So far, the projects are going off without a hitch. “The workers are very respectful about social distancing, wearing masks, using the sanitizing stations, and following all the COVID-19 safety guidelines,” Lombardo-Barton says. “In fact, having established cooperation from the contractors, along with the building staff’s ability to ensure compliance, we started allowing three workers per apartment. And we’ve just given the third apartment the green light to resume their renovations.”

Equally important, the strict protocols have put the residents’ minds at ease. “Honestly, there have been no negative comments whatsoever,” Lombardo-Barton happily reports. “The unit-owners who are doing the renovations have been out of their homes for months but are still paying common charges, so of course they’re eager for work to start up again. But we had to put safety first. You need a regimented process that is monitored by the staff. And management should follow up and check the logs every week. As long as all the boxes are checked, people feel comfortable.”

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