Tenants in buildings owned by Manhattan Skyline Management are getting a new freebie: concierge service. They can soon hand off onerous duties—finding a dog-walker, hiring a babysitter, making reservations—to a pro. It’s been in the works for over a year, but it’s arriving at the perfect time. Now that the rental market is following the sales market into dicey territory, keeping good tenants has become a major concern, and the word “concessions,” last heard in the early nineties, is back in the air. Though business is still fine for Manhattan Skyline, “it can only help,” says vice-chairperson Laurie Zucker. “Whatever we can do to make them happy.”
At the Octagon on Roosevelt Island, residents are now being offered discounts at the on-site day care. Residents also requested that a tired playroom be renovated—and it has been (pictured). A water taxi is in the works, too. Other landlords are rehabbing common spaces, agreeing to short-term leases, and freezing or reducing rents. One Yorkville resident called her management company, posing as a prospective tenant, and found that apartments like hers were being offered for $250 less than she was paying. She plans to demand the same rate when her lease is up.
It seems to make financial sense. Octagon developer Bruce Becker says it costs at least two months’ rent—for repainting, cleaning, and marketing—to turn over a new apartment. “We want to keep the buildings full and we want to be prudent,” he says. Still, it’s not clear how much these extras will help. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years, and it’s the first time both [sales and rentals] have been affected at the same time,” says Century 21 NY Metro’s Marc Lewis. “The people who can’t buy can’t rent either, because the rents haven’t gone down enough. And there’s not enough people to fill the apartments.” But Michelle Elrod, an Upper West Sider, says perks like concierge service could persuade her to re-sign next year. “We all work harder now, and it would be nice to just call the front desk and, say, get tickets,” she says. (Abbie Newman of concierge service Abigail Michaels says requests are in fact up.) Then again, free wi-fi is nice, but huge rent breaks are better. “What really matters is the price,” says Daniel Baum of the Real Estate Group. “People are much more cost-conscious. I highly doubt someone would take a rent increase just because you offer shuttle service.”