On March 24, residents of 830 Park Avenue, which include venture capitalist Alan Patricof and his wife, Susan, received a four-page typed letter from Gumley Haft, the corporation that manages that co-op and about 75 others in the city. The last sentence of the letter, just above CEO Daniel Wollman’s signature, reads as follows: “Your resident manager/superintendent and managing agent will do everything possible to assist in this emergency.”
Eight-thirty Park hasn’t had a fire or flood recently; Mr. Wollman’s “emergency” refers instead to the possible strike of 30,000 New York City building-service workers if their union, Local 32BJ, fails to reach a compromise with the Realty Advisory Board before Wednesday, April 14. For a certain stratum of condo and co-op dweller, “emergency” is not an overstatement: A walkout could mean about a million city residents would have to receive their own deliveries, sort their own mail and—the horror!—hail their own taxis.
The RAB issued a 45-page Preparedness Manual to building owners last month, aimed at helping to minimize the shock to residents—including those who haven’t thought to lock their apartment doors since the Eisenhower administration. “There are letters in the preparedness manual; there are various steps to communicate with the residents so that, unless the resident was an ostrich and had their head in the sand for the last month, they should very well be aware of what’s going on and take appropriate steps,” RAB president Howard Rothschild told the Transom. “And that might very well mean, you know, bringing keys with them when they leave the building. Or locking their door.”
Most of the letters issued to residents are variations on a sample letter included in the penultimate page of the RAB’s manual, and include nuts-and-bolts details like garbage collection and suspension of contract decorating and carpentry work; others, like Gumley Haft’s, are painstakingly detailed. “In buildings which have automatic passenger elevators, the cars will be on automatic operation. (Instructions for operation will be posted in each car.) In buildings without automatic operation, a volunteer staff is, of course, essential,” the packet reads.
A terse memo from Penmark Management to residents of buildings including the Ariel condos on West 99th closes with some self-referential advice: “Please keep this memo handy and refer to it for information,” it suggests.
Mark Andrews, 24, who has been a doorman for seven years and currently works at 1050 Park, isn’t sure the page-long letter issued to that building’s residents by Douglas Elliman Property Management has served its purpose. “I think they’re not taking it very seriously, but they will … [when] they’re doing all those chores they’re not used to doing,” Mr. Andrews said. “If I had garbage piling up in my apartment …”
Mr. Andrews trailed off. A white-haired man in a Central Park Conservancy baseball cap had entered the building, and he needed help with his groceries.