Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums


Also see:

Since no one can predict whether a strike may occur in the course of this year's contract negotiations with Building Service Employees Union Local 32B-32J, it pays to be prepared. That means laying out a plan to take care of your building's basic needs, such as mail distribution, garbage collection and cleaning. But most importantly, it means making sure that your building remains secure if doormen, the superintendent and porters are no longer there to help protect residents and their homes.

The fastest, easiest and most foolproof way to maintain your building's first line of defense is to hire a security guard. There are several security guard companies in the city, ranging from large national or regional organizations to smaller local agencies. While locating firms is not generally a problem, the real work is in making sure they will service your building in case of a strike - when scores of other buildings will also need security guards - and that they have all of the proper licensing, training and insurance protection in place.


Lesson number one is "don't wait until the last minute or you'll get caught without any coverage," says Gerald A. O'Rourke, an independent security consultant who presents the Security workshop at CNYC's annual Cooperative Housing Conference. He recommends reserving the services of a guard company well in advance of Sunday, April 20, 1997 – the date the current contract expires.

According to Donald Carey, president of Lansdell Protection Agency, one of the largest in the area, guard companies usually require at least four weeks' notice "to make sure we are able to have the staff online to go to a job." Agencies generally hire guards as needed, rather than keeping them on staff waiting for work. To book an agency's services, standard practice is for your building to pay the equivalent of one eight-hour shift's worth of guards in advance.


Another reason for getting a jump on hiring guards is so that you have time to lay the proper groundwork. First, you should make sure representatives from the firms you are considering visit your building to assess your security needs. "We always do a survey of the property to see what you need," says Curtis Mills, president of Mills Patrol Service, a small agency in Manhattan. "We make suggestions and we find out what you want and we shape a security force for you." According to Mr. Carey, co-ops and condos generally ask for a guard at the front door to ensure that only authorized individuals come into the building. If you expect trouble from picketers or are concerned about excessive crime in the area, you can ask for additional guards to patrol the outside area and walk the floors of your building.

You should also check that the firm has the proper insurance to protect your building. Mr. O'Rourke recommends that firms have at least a $1 million umbrella liability policy naming your building as the insured. Mr. Carey notes that his firm, which carries a $6 million liability policy, has its insurance carrier send the building a certificate of insurance before the date that the security service is to start.

Yet another item on your checklist should be to make sure that the security company and its guards have the proper state licensing. Under the New York State Security Guard Act of 1994, the General Business Law now requires security guard employers and all guards to be licensed by the New York State Department of State. In addition to taking eight hours of pre-assignment training, all guards must be fingerprinted and subjected to a background check – including a check for any criminal record or pattern of criminal activity – and have their information on file at the Department of State.

Licensing status is public information. To find out whether the firms you are considering, and the guards they hire, are licensed, call the Department of State's general number at (518) 474-4429. For answers to specific questions about the law, call Barbara Dunigan, administrative assistant at the Department of State, at (518) 473-2728. You can also obtain information from the Department of State's World Wide Web home page at http://www.


A final reason to begin your search for a guard early is to give you time to shop around. Not all security firms will be able to accommodate your building's needs – especially if your job requires several guards on each shift. "I can usually squeeze in a job with one or two guards, but when you're talking 15 or 20 guards per shift, that's another matter," says Mr. Mills. In addition, there's no set price for a security job. According to Mr. Carey, each contract is negotiated separately, and price depends on the availability of guards and the experience of the guards assigned to your building.

You should be prepared to pay at the top of the scale for this interim security service, warn experts. Such work is often bid out at "emergency prices" that reflect the urgency of your need. Companies also need to justify the cost of hiring additional guards, especially if the strike lasts only a few days. As with any other type of work requiring outside vendors, collect at least three bids from reputable firms before making your decision.

A money-saving alternative to hiring a 24-hour security force is to ask residents to volunteer to staff the door during the day, using a guard only from midnight to 8 AM. In any event, it's also wise to have residents scheduled to be at the door in two- or three-hour shifts, to help identify fellow residents or in case your building cannot find a company to handle the job, says Mr. O'Rourke.


To make sure that the security guards can do their jobs effectively, your board needs to create a complete list of everyone authorized to enter the building. Otherwise, guards who are unfamiliar with your building won't know who to let in and who to keep out during a strike.

CNYC's booklet, In the Event of a Strike, which will be sent to all members this March, advises boards that is practical to sort these names into two lists: one with all names in alphabetical order, with apartment numbers in the right column to make it easy to find a name without knowing the apartment; and the other going by apartment, listing the names of all of the residents and any sitters, housekeepers, etc. who are authorized to enter that apartment when the family is not at home. To help guards establish residents' identities, the board can create special buttons or passes, or require residents to carry some other authentic piece of identification.

In most situations, boards choose to lock all doors and allow free access only to residents with keys or passes. If a resident expects a guest or a delivery, arrangements must be made with the guard. To maintain the best possible security, it helps to remind residents that security guards are not doormen or porters. "These people are not taxi-callers or door-openers," says Mr. O'Rourke. "They're just there as security to keep unauthorized people out of the building."

CNYC will have available a list of security guard companies to help with your building's preparations.


Sign Up Today
Receive CNYC updates and bulletins by email! To sign up, click here and complete the online form.

Now Online
Member Inquiries
Questions & Requests from CNYC Members, to CNYC Members. Click to view.

click to view event details

You may register for CNYC events by calling (212) 496-7400 or by completing the Onlne Registration Form.

CNYC Membership

Is Your Cooperative or Condominium a CNYC Member?

Join Today!

DOT-COOP Registration

Does your building have its "Dot-Coop"? Register by clicking on this button:

250 West 57th Street, Suite 730
New York, NY 10107-0730
Tel: (212) 496-7400
Fax: (212) 580-7801
Membership | About CNYC | Events | Housing Conference | Current Articles | Article Archive | Links | Home | back to top
Copyright © CNYC, 1996-. All Rights Reserved. Policy Statements. Designed & Maintained by LLC