Serendipity was in play when Michelle Blum moved from a one- to a two-bedroom apartment in the Greybarn in Amityville in March 2020, just before the statewide COVID-19 lockdown.
"Thank goodness we did, because otherwise it would have been very challenging: two people working out of a one-bedroom apartment, on the phone all the time," says Blum, a nutritionist, whose fiance uses the second bedroom as an office.
Blum, 32, who has been living in the development for five years, takes advantage of the "Barn," the Greybarn’s clubhouse, to consult with clients.
"It’s a really great place to have, especially with the pandemic," Blum says of the Barn’s work areas, which have good Wi-Fi.
"Apartment living is sometimes close quarters, especially because my fiance’s home and we’re both on the phone; it makes it more challenging to function," she explains, especially with Reese, Blum’s mixed-breed pup, who’s constantly nudging her to play.
The year went by for Greybarn residents without too much disruption: There were no COVID cases in the development that Blum knows of, and the management helped keep the facility safe and clean for residents. They are among numerous tenants on Long Island, many of them living in apartment buildings sharing laundry rooms, corridors and elevators, who appear to have weathered the pandemic so far, as cases begin to recede.
For many, getting through this past year entailed a can-do spirit, good-neighborliness and patience with a host of restrictions.
Greybarn, for instance, has its rules. "They do require masks in the hallways and all the public spaces. And they did put hand sanitizers and things like that everywhere," Blum says, adding, "In the summer, they placed all the pool lounge chairs 6 feet apart." The pool remained open all summer.
Some residents have helped by volunteering their time. In David Lofton’s two-building complex in Hempstead, four people were hospitalized with the virus: a family of three from his building and a woman from the other one, all of whom eventually recovered.
Because so many people come in and out of his building, Lofton, 74, says: "Once a day, I go out there and spray the hallway on the floor I live on. I spray the laundry room. You got to make sure that’s clean."
Though he lives on the first floor, Lofton frequently uses the elevator to get to other floors, always making sure everyone’s wearing masks and that not too many people ride it at once.
Many of them have gone the extra mile in taking precautions. Jane Fisher, 62, says she doesn’t know of any COVID cases in her 93-apartment building in Long Beach.
"I always wear a mask," Fisher says. "As soon as I walk in, I wash my hands. If I have groceries, I put away my groceries and I wash my hands again."
Wendy Sanders didn't want to specify how many people were infected in her building. "I don’t know of any building that hasn’t been impacted," says Sanders, 51, who lives in the Roslyn Lumber Yard, a mixed-used development of 22 apartments, five lofts, a rooftop deck and gym above retail space In Roslyn.
The management took all necessary precautions, Sanders says. "We put hand sanitizers; we put wipes at every stairwell/elevator," she says. "We went a little above and beyond by doing it on every floor, but it’s only two floors — not a big deal."
Amenities make a difference
At some developments, life has been relatively stress-free. Greybarn, a 455-unit complex, has lots of places for residents to use without having to leave the 20-acre campus.
In addition to coworking spaces, there’s lots of green space, two oversized lawns, two dog parks, walking areas, a pool and barbecue area, notes Greybarn developer Mitchell Rechler, comanaging partner of Rechler Equity Partners.
Amenity spaces, such as the pool and Barn, opened to a limited capacity under state guidelines, says Michael Loeffler, community director for Greybarn.
For entertainment, Greybarn’s community coordinator arranges book club and game nights over Zoom and in summer, they’ll once again offer movie nights on the great lawn.
"Things like that just helped keep a sense of normalcy for people," Loeffler says.
Rental market called brisk
Despite the pandemic, or because of it, business for both apartment and home rentals is booming.
Since brokers returned to work in May there’s been an uptick in rentals to clients from Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, says Heidi Lippacher, a real estate agent from Century 21 American Homes, whose rental listings are predominantly in Long Beach, Island Park and Oceanside.
"We’re very, very busy," Lippacher says. "There’s no inventory. And, if a rental comes to market, it’s rented quickly. It’s a pretty wild market right now."
Many people typically move from the city for Long Island’s schools, notes Sanders, a real estate agent for Douglas Elliman specializing in rentals. During COVID-19, however, schools were not the top priority.
"They thought they were escaping where the preponderance of the disease was," Sanders says of people from the five boroughs, adding that many have relocated because they have family on Long Island and don’t need to physically be in their offices.
‘There were people to talk to’
For Sanders, the lockdown was relatively quiet and peaceful.
"It kind of just allowed us — my family — to be together, when they were home," she says of her two daughters, who returned to college in January, and son, who attends high school, and lives with her.
When the four of them were home, it could get crowded.
"It was hard in the winter," Sanders says. "There’s not as much space to go out, to enjoy yourself. You’re more confined to your home."
On warm days, however, there’ve been plenty of possibilities, such as walking to Roslyn or Port Washington, or seeing neighbors — from a social distance — on the roof deck.
In fact, multifamily living proved a better option for her than a single-family home.
"There were always people to talk to. There were always friendly faces to see," she says. "You run out of butter, you call your neighbor and you don’t even have to go to the supermarket."
Helping other seniors
Living on the first floor of a seven-story apartment building at a 240-unit apartment complex in Hempstead, Lofton hasn’t had to put up with the problem of elevators that frequently don't work.
"The seniors have a hard time," says Lofton, who’s retired. As president of the tenants association, he looks out for other aging residents in the two buildings. "They got to use the stairwells to get up and down. So, it’s been challenging."
Though there are no signs posted, Lofton says residents do not hesitate to remind each other of the need to wear masks in elevators and throughout the building.
On any given day, Lofton will go out for walks or hop in his car to do a little shopping.
"Overall, I’ve been pretty blessed," he says. "Just me and the wife — we look out for each other, make sure everything is all right."
Since the COVID-19 outbreak last year, Fisher frequently takes the stairs to and from her third-floor apartment in Long Beach.
"There were times that I didn’t want to get in the elevator with other people," says Fisher, who has lived in her Long Beach apartment since January 2017. "Some people didn’t have a mask on. Sometimes it was uncomfortable."
For the most part, Fisher, an employment manager for Hempstead schools who returned to work full time in September, is doing just fine.
"I could have felt cooped up, because I live by myself," Fisher says. "I don’t have a boyfriend and I don’t have any family in the area. I could have felt very lonely, but I didn’t."
Before Long Beach’s boardwalk reopened May 21, Fisher managed to get out every day for some fresh air.
"I take wonderful, virtual exercise classes that I love," she says. "I cook a lot. I FaceTime with my friends and family. I used to go to the movies every single Tuesday. Do I miss that? Yeah, I do, but not as much as I thought I would."
Fisher, who has a HappyWhenSad.com website, says it’s simply her nature to make lemonade out of lemons.
"I could have been extremely lonely sitting here, but I just came up with a lot of strategies, so I wasn’t," she explains.
However, Fisher does sympathize with others who are less optimistic.
"I could well understand if people do feel that way," she says.
Apartments for rent
Community: Apt. 3B, Roslyn Lumber Yard, Roslyn
Lease terms: $5,650 a month, one-year
Features: A 1,317-square foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows on top floor of a two-story building, which has a roof deck, fitness center and storage room. The apartment has water views, a custom kitchen with stainless steel appliances, fully outfitted closets and full-size washer dryer.
Listing agent: Wendy Sanders, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Community: Apt. 2B, Boardwalk Apartments, Long Beach
Lease terms: $3,300 a month, one year
Features: This two-bedroom, 1½-bath apartment on the second floor of a seven-story building has a private terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The building, which is on the boardwalk, includes a live-in superintendent, laundry room and bike storage facility.
Listing agent: David Kasner, Century 21 American Homes
Community: Apt. 215, 30 Greybarn Lane, Amityville
Lease terms: $2,475 a month, one year
Features: A loft-style, 850-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath unit on the second floor of a three-story building, the apartment features 9-foot-7-inch ceilings, stainless steel appliances and quartz counters, NEST Smart thermostats, ButterflyMX intercom system, and a washer/dryer. The Greybarn complex offers amenities such as a clubhouse with library, fitness center, billiards room and screening room, a pool and two dog parks.
Listing agent: Greybarn rental office