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How Buildings Are Tackling the Problem of Package Pile-Up

By Amy Zimmer | December 6, 2016 4:42pm
 Online shopping is surging, experts say, and NYC buildings need to deal with the package pile-ups.
Online shopping is surging, experts say, and NYC buildings need to deal with the package pile-ups.
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MANHATTAN — The number of packages delivered to Murray Hill’s New York Tower swells to 400 to 500 per day, said doorman and porter Juan Gutierrez.

The number of daily deliveries has nearly doubled at the 510-unit luxury rental since he started working there 5 years ago, he estimated.

“People get a lot of clothing from Amazon and Rue La La. They get baby strollers, toys, electronics. It’s crazy: we get sleeper sofas and dressers — something they should get delivered when they’re home,” Gutierrez said. “We have a small package room, and we use the service entrance this time of year. We do what we can.”

As much as New Yorkers might adore buying local, many shop online whether for groceries, clothes, toilet paper and — increasingly — for big-ticket items like rugs and mattresses. Boxes are piling up in lobbies and vestibules across the city, and buildings are grappling with how to meet the growing space demands for deliveries.

This is, of course, easier for full-service buildings — and many are being retrofitted to expand package rooms.

New York Tower, for instance, has an online communication system where they scan an incoming package and alert the tenant to pick it up, but things do get backlogged this time of year, Gutierrez noted. The building is considering bringing on seasonal helpers to assist with the intake and organizing of all the packages and might even expand its package room to accommodate the boxes moving forward.

In new buildings, many developers are making sure package rooms are part of the design, but in many existing walk-ups or non-doorman buildings, solutions are trickier.

A growing number of developers are considering package lockers which keep deliveries secure until residents, who receive a text with a unique access code, can pick them up.

Often, however, residents are left to figure out how to receive packages on their own. For some that means getting deliveries, when they’re small enough, at their offices and then schlepping them home on the train.

Apps have also sprouted up to fill the gap, like Doorman and Parcel, which receive your deliveries and then let you schedule a time for drop-off.  

The United Parcel Service is also trying to make it easier through programs like UPS Access Points, where local small businesses will accept packages and hold them for consumers who live or work near them, and My Choice, which sends a proactive email alerting a person as to when a delivery will be attempted and allows for the package to be re-routed to a different location before it arrives.

“Online shopping has made things so much quicker and easier, but it is causing a backlog of boxes,” said Kathy McFarland, a broker with Engel & Volkers. “It’s unsightly."

At her full-service rental on West 56th Street, the building is planning to build out the closet behind the concierge to accommodate more packages. A nearby building on West 52nd Street, she said, also has such an expansion underway.

“They made a small cabinet for packages and a hanging area for dry cleaning in 2006, based on the norm at the time,” she said. “Now everything is coming via box.”

At the nearly finished 34-unit eco-friendly rental building rental in Hamilton Heights called Perch Harlem there will be a virtual doorman — someone off site who can buzz delivery workers in — and a dedicated room in the basement that’s about 150 square feet to store packages.

“Every developer has to consider [packages] for any residential project now,” Justin Palmer, CEO of Synapse Development Group, whose team is taking things one step further, Synapse is also partnering with Hello Alfred, a butler service, where renters can come home to their boxes unpacked.

“We thought about it from the perspective of maximizing one’s lifestyle [and] maximizing their comfort,” Palmer said.

The ability to get your packages, he added, shouldn’t be considered a luxury, rather it should be an expected convenience.

“You don’t want to hear that your package couldn’t get delivered,” he said.

The new rental building on Astoria’s waterfront known as Graffiti House — an homage to Long Island City's former graffiti mecca 5Pointz — will have a smartphone app for residents in its 28 units enabling them to grant access to any deliveryman at any time regardless of their location to put things in the package room or cold storage, according to the building’s representatives.

When working with would-be renters at buildings that have no way for tenants to get packages during the work day, David Mathews, marketing director of Mdrn. Residential, said his firm’s brokers educate them about the apps and other services.

“Many residents don't know they exist,” he said. “I do my best to get our agents to introduce the third party services to our clients to make a building more appealing as an option, particularly so if it's a walk-up.”

Landlords know they have to catch up to the times, he added.

“Existing buildings who have underused space could ideally build out package rooms if short-term cost isn't an issue,” he said.

A survey in August from the trade publication Multi-Family Executive found that nearly 17 percent of respondents — some 22,800 renters — receive five to 10 packages a month. That number likely doubles in December.

More than a quarter of respondents had experienced problems or inefficiencies with receiving packages.

UPS makes three delivery attempts for each package before sending the customer a post card requesting they come pick it up at a company facility.

“Some apartment buildings do have arrangements where we can leave packages with a building manager or in a ‘package room,’ but many do not,” UPS spokesman Dan McMackin said. “An all-together different solution is to have packages shipped to where you are, not where you aren’t — so have them sent to where you work, or to a relative or neighbor who is always home.”