Janet Babin, Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a reporter at WNYC covering economic development.
It’s that time of year again — tourists are shopping in the city’s landmark stores and the tree at Rockefeller Center is aglow in thousands of lights. It must be time to think about another New York ritual: the holiday bonus for the super and doorman.
As Gary Malin, who runs the residential brokerage firm Citi-Habitats, explains it “building staff put a lot of time and effort into assisting you throughout the year. Now’s the time to remember them.
Many residents do set aside cash for the building staff. But some resentment might accompany that end-of-year envelope. Teri Rogers, who founded real estate website Brickunderground.com, said some residents compare the ritual to extortion. They complain that many doormen are in unions and receive pensions, something many New Yorkers don’t enjoy.
“The first thing they'll say is why am I doing this?,” said Rogers. But she warned that residents who don't tip at the end of the year should be ready for repercussions, like long wait times for repairs, and a lot of sitting around if you happen to find yourself locked out of your apartment.
For residents who do give, figuring out how much to give can be mind-boggling. Malin said there’s no maximum level, obviously. But there is a minimum. “Anything under $25-dollars” might feel stingy, said Malin.
He offered some basic guidelines. “For a super or resident manager in a building, the range could be $75 up to $500,” he said.
But the economy has remained stubbornly sluggish since the last recession. Many city residents are tapped out. If that’s the case, some doormen understand.
Michael Velez has worked at the Gramercy Spire co-op building on East 16th street for eight years. A few years ago, he said many residents quietly told him they couldn’t give at the level he was used to, “because of the economy." By last year though, Velez said about 95 percent of the building’s shareholders had returned to the standard holiday gift they had given him before the downturn. But if some residents snub him this December, he said it’s no problem. “They're not supposed to give us anything. They give us because they want to give us,” said Velez.
If only every doorman thought like Velez.