Manhattan’s cooperative market is back in business. Many cooperative boards are easing restrictions on demonstrations and the use of community facilities such as rooftop gardens and fitness centers. According to Steven Goldschmidt, Director of Sales and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs at Warburg Realty, the market is recovering after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions. “People want things to go back to normal,” he says.
The numbers tell a similar story. According to data provided by UrbanDigs’ John Walkup, the median price for a Manhattan co-op rose 16% year over year in the second quarter of 2021. “In addition, the median sales price for the second quarter of 2021 is the highest quarterly median price ever recorded, surpassing the previous high of 2017,” said Walkup.
I recently spoke with Goldschmidt, who oversees the representation of numerous high-end developers in Manhattan, about how co-op boards of directors move forward while staying safe. In addition to his 40-year career in the Manhattan real estate brokerage business, Goldschmidt is a long-time board member of the 140-unit Upper Westside Cooperative where he lives.
EP: With New York City being over 70% vaccinated and most COVID protocols being lifted, where do the city’s buildings and co-op boards of directors go from here to ease restrictions?
SG: Things change week after week. There seems to be a natural tendency for restrictions to be relaxed because people want to. So far there have really been no public open houses or only by appointment, which is not a real open house. We can now see that open houses begin again without appointments. People going to open houses and demonstrations and no longer having to fill out COVID information forms required by the Real Estate Board of New York.
I see more and more new development cocktail parties and broker breakfasts that are subject to certain rules. I was just at one of those cocktail parties and about half of the people were wearing masks and the other half were not.
EP: How is the wearing of masks within the building for employees, residents and deliverers handled?
SG: Over 35 children live in my house. We ask residents to continue to wear masks in public areas, including elevators and hallways. Since there are children who are young and not vaccinated, they deserve a certain amount of caution in and around the building.
We still see grocery suppliers and contractors wearing masks. Most of the buildings have now returned to their old grocery delivery habits, whether it is having your takeout food delivered to your front door or going downstairs to collect it. It depends on what the residents are comfortable with and what the store employing the delivery person decides as a guideline for its employees.
EP: Common spaces are an important part of living together in New York, especially in the summer when people are outside using the outside space. What are these restrictions on shared amenities now?
SG: The most difficult space to tackle is the gym and exercise room. Our gym was closed until May. A cooperative gym can’t function like an equinox. Here there is a trust factor among our residents to clean the devices they use. After the gym was open, you had to reserve your time at the gym. Only one household was allowed at a time. Entry was controlled by the porter with a key fob. When the mandates ended, we took the position of using the honor system.
The other convenience room is our rooftop where people have the option not to wear masks. In June we had a party for the residents on the roof terrace, which was attended by around 40 to 50 residents. Some wore masks and some didn’t.
EP: Are cooperative boards starting to conduct face-to-face interviews with potential buyers again? How about personal board meetings with board members?
SG: Our co-op board planning meeting just had its first personal board planning meeting. We can stay with Zoom during ongoing board meetings. As far as personal interviews for buyers go. We meet buyers in the lobby or on the roof.
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