Peloton plots, paramours and other problems as buildings reopen

Boards bolster enforcement as residents sneak in lovers and workouts

New York /
Jun.June 23, 2020 08:00 AM
Building managers, frustrated by rule breakers, seek to bolster their power to enforce house rules like wearing a mask (iStock)

Building managers are bolstering their power to enforce house rules such as wearing a mask (iStock)

Dog walkers, nannies, housekeepers and contractors are back at work in New Yorkers’ homes. Even some buildings that barred moving — although the state never did — are loosening the rules.

Reopening presents a challenge for those tasked with keeping the buildings safe while dealing with rulebreakers.

Attorney Leni Morrison Cummins said she’s advising the 75 condominium and cooperative boards she represents to “take this opportunity to get ready for a second wave.”

Preparations she recommends range from allowing a board to pass rules without a vote in order to comply with government orders to amending bylaws so boards can fine residents.

“We’ve seen a lot of residents basically just turn a nose up at the board’s regulations,” she said. “Mask wearing has been the No. 1 issue.”

John Janangelo of Douglas Elliman Property Management recounted one instance where a resident, a lawyer, was outraged over the building’s rule of wearing a mask in common spaces.

“We had one guy literally go crazy,” said Janangelo, whose firm oversees more than 350 buildings, mostly in Manhattan. “He disputed the benefit of wearing a mask, then disputed the board’s right to have people wear a mask … We traded legal letters on it.”

Steven Sladkus, a partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, has fielded inquiries from condo and co-op boards that want to fine residents for not wearing masks. Governing documents don’t always permit fines, but now many buildings are trying to change that.

“Sometimes when you hit someone in their pocketbook, it gets their attention,” said Sladkus, whose firm represents more than 300 condos and co-op boards.

Other issues Morrison Cummins has encountered include residents sneaking in paramours despite a strict no-visitor policy, and residents berating building staff for propping open front doors and other measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beyond bolstering enforcement, property managers say the most significant reopening stage will be when fitness rooms return to use.

“The thing that most people have been screaming about is opening the gyms,” said Janangelo. Sladkus said he receives constant calls asking when buildings can reopen them.

Morrison Cummins said one building resorted to padlocking its gym after residents kept sneaking in to work out. In another, a resident tried to move a Peloton bike from the gym to a better-ventilated area.

“People really lost it over those gyms when they were closing,” she said. “But I get it.”

The consensus among lawyers and property managers is that gyms will be closed for a while yet. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t making plans for eventual reopening, according to Dennis DePaolo, executive vice president of Orsid Realty, which manages over 17,000 units across hundreds of luxury Manhattan buildings.

Orsid is preparing a system to let residents reserve gym time online and keep capacity low. Some machines will be rearranged or unplugged to keep distance between users.

But DePaolo also noted that roughly 15 percent to 20 percent of the buildings Orsid oversees have no plans to relax lockdown rules.

“Some boards say no, we don’t want to take these risks,” he said. “So they’re holding out.”

Janangelo said some boards are adding safety measures, such as temperature checks, on top of the recommended health screenings. Elliman introduced that protocol at Trump Plaza after a resident insisted.

“Just like everything else, you have to adapt to the environment,” said Janangelo. “It’s a new world.”

Write to Erin Hudson at [email protected]


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