I am writing this column at the beginning of May when it is difficult to foresee what will happen in the following months. Will the curve continue downward, or will we have a relapse, with COVID-19 cases increasing? What and how many businesses will open and at what level? How will restaurants cope? Finally, and probably most importantly, how will we as residents of this great city respond to the government strictures and the restricted movement?
From the perspective of a managing agent, we need to be adaptable to the changes but maintain as a priority the safety and heath of the residents and staffs of the properties under management. Until there is a proven and widely available vaccine, we will continue with the rigorous cleaning of all public areas, along with many of the procedures we have adopted for delivery of food and other items as well as the access of visitors. On this we will follow the direction and procedures established by the boards as well as the recommendations of public officials and medical professionals.
Those who are infected with COVID-19 must quarantine in their apartments and should notify the superintendent, asset manager or resident manager. Their identities will be kept confidential, but this will permit us to provide more assistance for food shopping and picking up garbage left outside the apartment door. In addition, if an infected person is going to a doctor or the hospital, we can provide a route for them that will not put others in danger of infection. We encourage residents to help each other through organized groups or individually with shopping and checking in on residents living alone, particularly the elderly, even if they are not infected.
As we slowly get back to the new normal, we will be able to begin non-emergency maintenance, but we have asked residents to be patient, as in most properties we have delayed most of this work during the lockdown.
One thing that’s been emphasized in this frightening episode in our nation’s history is the importance of planning. While so much is uncertain, we are working with our boards to look ahead. Most boards have a calendar year budget cycle. It is not too early to look at the current budget to see where there might be revenue shortfalls and continue to review policies for non-payment of monthly charges and commercial rent. It will also be helpful to consider options in the event the association requires additional funds.
Another area is construction. Have projects been suspended? What is the impact on these, as well as upcoming projects, whether roof work or rehabbing of public spaces? Which ones can proceed and which must be rescheduled? The same holds true for other capital improvements. What is planned for the current year? Which projects should stay on schedule, and which should be pushed into future years?
To assist the residents of our buildings, we send a weekly newsletter identifying ways to cope with the lockdown, such as links to websites for take-out and exercising and information on cleaning cell phones, making masks, how long the virus lives on various surfaces and health sites. We also remind them of protocols and general procedures.
The past few months, we’ve lived through a script we only thought possible in a sci-fi movie. Who would have envisioned a comatose New York City with restaurants closed, little traffic and a Times Square where the number of pedestrians could be counted on two hands? Through it all, New Yorkers have risen to the occasion and exhibited the discipline, grit, diligence and true neighborliness that help make our city so great.
Our ability to overcome this once-unthinkable tragedy shines a spotlight on all New Yorkers. The doctors, nurses, hospital staffs, EMS personnel, police and firefighters have given their all, and in some cases their lives, in their efforts to save the lives of many. Our asset managers, staffs, superintendents and resident managers have provided service to enable the residents of our buildings to adhere to the guidelines that seek to keep all of us safe. The essential service workers in food markets, pharmacies and other vital services deserve our great gratitude.