Posted by Leonard Steinberg on April 14th, 2014

New York Doormen are a hallmark of New York buildings, the first and last impression of a guest and often a wonderful welcome home at the end of a long day. They perform numerous tasks during the day and night, many more than the expected opening and closing of doors. As we approach the deadline for the re-negotiation of the doorman union contract, there are several questions I have, especially in this era of “affordable housing awareness”.

The recently re-negotiated Union Doorman contract will raise the average wage for a New York City doorman from $44,389 to $49,402 by the contract’s end.  Additional cash (un-taxed) tips are on top of this. Buildings then have to pay an additional $20,000 per year for  benefits, hence a cost to the building of around $70,000.00 per year per doorman. A 24 hour doorman service requires at least 4 doormen on staff, hence an annual cost to the building owners of roughly $280,000.00 per year. An amount like this is manageable when shared by a larger number of unit owners, but for small buildings its a disaster. Is it realistic for a doorman to be paid the same as a teacher who has to study for years for a bachelor’s degree to learn certain skills? Is it fair that a doorman who sits at the desk of a small building surfing the web all day out of sheer boredom should be paid more than double that of someone working physically non-stop at a fast food restaurant?

I wonder if doormen’s pay should be directly relative to the number of units and owners they are servicing: Is it fair for a doorman that is servicing 200 unit owners to get paid the same as one who services 25?

Is it fair that the costs for doormen are the same in co-ops as they are in condominiums when most co-ops are taxed significantly less than condo’s thereby allowing their total monthly costs to be lower to absorb the services costs more easily?

How do small buildings keep up with the costs of a doorman when large building are paying the same divided amongst many more unit owners?

I think the answer is for each building to do what works best for them and then let the free markets do their thing. For some buildings a virtual doorman is the answer. The concept is somewhat similar to those self-check-outs at Home Depot. They work, but they are much less personal, and they kill jobs. Security Guard services are a good option too.

Doormen are entitled to fair pay. But what is fair? Doormen are entitled to health care benefits. But belonging to a Union is not the only way to get fair wages and health insurance. Many non-union buildings do indeed pay fair wages and provide health insurance, but cannot justify the additional expenses a union doorman set-up costs.

I love my doormen: they are truly great. I do feel badly for them as often they spend so much of the day doing absolutely nothing as I live in  a very small building. The costs for a doorman are a growing problem for smaller buildings. Large buildings can absorb this cost more easily. I wonder if it would be better to have six 4-hour shifts instead of three 8-hour shifts so that being a doorman could be a part-time job, one that supplements income or provides jobs for the young while they learn skills that can lead to bigger paying careers? Maybe a high-tech automated doorman system that is significantly improved from the current virtual doorman system is the answer? Maybe small buildings on a block could group together to create a shared package room?

Monthly carrying costs cannot continue to spiral upwards. Novelty solutions are needed, especially for smaller buildings.