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Where the Packages Go

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Package deliveries are overtaking New York City and the way many residential buildings have responded to the influx is to go high tech.

UPS reported an almost 29 percent increase in U.S. average daily package volume from 2008 to 2018 — and they’ve got the brown boxes to prove it. But for many New Yorkers, coming home to find deliveries stacked in the vestibule, hidden behind the building’s garbage cans, or worst of all, left outside a locked door, is a thing of the past.

Instead, locker systems with real-time notifications, lobby screens showing “package” emojis for each apartment and front door systems that allow residents to let delivery people into their homes remotely are helping New Yorkers take back their hallways — and get their stuff on time.

Georgianna Oliver, the chief executive and founder of Package Concierge, a self-serve locker solution designed to automate the delivery of packages, said the biggest issue her customer base of apartment buildings in New York City faced was space constraint. “There’s nowhere for all the packages,” she said. In most cases, a hallway is the chosen spot for the locker system.

The average 200-unit building receives 70 packages a day and it can take 12 to 20 hours for residents to pick them up, said Ms. Oliver. “Next thing you know, there’s a hundred unclaimed boxes. It’s definitely about managing the package flow,” she said. “We have a formula for how we determine a building’s needs — 100 units requires a 30-40 locker system; that takes up 7-8 feet of hallway space.”

So far, Package Concierge has made it to 137 buildings in the New York metropolitan area, with 25 of them in New York City, including Riverbank, a luxury apartment building in Hell’s Kitchen. The lockers at Riverbank are neutral and streamlined, but the color and size of the lockers can be made to match the look of each individual lobby.

“Everything we do is customized as far as size and color,” said Ms. Oliver. “The wraps can be flamingos or Tiffany boxes,” she said, describing some of the more fanciful overlays that buildings have chosen for their lockers.

Residents seem happy with the addition. “They love it because they don’t have a security issue and they know where their package is,” she said. “We take a photo of every transaction. They’re impressed with the technology.”

Ms. Oliver said that in buildings with lockers, about 80 percent of residents opted to use the system. If residents choose not to sign up, they receive a registration reminder, but they can have packages shipped elsewhere (such as their office). In buildings with an actual human concierge, the lockers have provided relief from the onslaught. “The concierge had to spend so much time on packages they didn’t have time to do their real job,” she said.

Smaller buildings around town have also implemented new systems to deal with package delivery.

Jay Greenberg, principal of Z+G Property Group has installed Latch, a full-building access system that allows you to manage and open doors with a smartphone or a door code. “We have 12 buildings, mostly in Brooklyn and none of them have doormen,” he said. “These are small, walk-up buildings with no room for a package area.” Before Latch, tenants complained about packages being stolen whenever carriers would buzz an apartment and then leave packages outside the door of the building.

“We wanted a nice, stylish looking lock that could get drivers into the building. Now they can enter the code and leave the package on the floor inside,” Mr. Greenberg said.

He noted that human interaction still played a vital role in package delivery. A new delivery person who doesn’t know the system could mean the difference between a delivered box and the dreaded missed package slip that sends New Yorkers to wait in long lines at far-flung post offices — a proverbial package purgatory.

“You need the regular carrier, someone we have seen and are able to talk to,” Mr. Greenberg said. “The human element is not eliminated.”

He said that Latch has been a “huge hit” with tenants, though some residents have yet to download the necessary software and use the system at all.

Scott Krauss, a tenant in an eight-unit building in Bedford-Stuyvesant that Z+G owns and manages was an early adapter.

“One thing that’s really cool is that I have accounts with UPS and FedEx,” said Mr. Krauss, 37, the director of sales at ActionIQ. “I’ll get a call that they are outside, and I’ll text them a code to get them in the front door.”

Latch has partnered with UPS to train managers, who in turn train drivers to make in-building deliveries with the system. Drivers scan packages with a hand-held device called a “DIAD.” When packages are scanned, a door code for that particular building pops up on the DIAD, which they can enter into the Latch device at the building’s front door to let themselves in. Latch started in New York and San Francisco, and this year began expanding to other cities.

“Internet of Things technology plays a pivotal role in our network and our ongoing mission to improve the customer experience,” said Bill Smith, the vice president of global product innovation for UPS. “The future could see an intersection of tech-enabled access control systems like smart access devices, parcel lockers, alternative pickup locations and other technologies that give consumers delivery options and control. UPS is working on all of this.”

Even with all of this new technology in place, Xavier C. Hernandez, a communications specialist for the United States Postal Service, stressed that there’s still a need for human interaction. “Our success in reaching in to apartment or business mailboxes has always been a collaborative effort with a building’s management team, who is responsible for providing that access,” he said.

Some buildings take things a step further, allowing doormen to actually enter a resident’s apartment with packages to avoid a pileup in the lobby.

Rebecca Blacker, a licensed real estate broker at Warburg Reality, said that all incoming packages in her Upper East Side building were logged by the doorman into BuildingLink, a property management software program. Residents have the option for packages to be placed inside their apartments.

Ms. Blacker has two young children in diapers, and they frequently get big boxes of diapers delivered, so she regularly opts for in-apartment delivery. “It’s just like giving permission to access your apartment when you are not home for a maintenance request,” said Ms. Blacker.

Hazel Towers, an 18-story building in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx, uses Notifii, a different software system that scans packages and notifies residents by text or email when something has arrived for them.

Carla Carroll, 56, a merchandizer for an eyewear company who has lived in Hazel Towers for the past 14 years with her husband and high school-aged daughter, gets frequent deliveries for her business and said Notifii has definitely improved package delivery in the building.

“Before the Notifii system it was more hectic for the concierges to identify, process and log in packages,” said Ms. Carroll. “The turnaround time for a delivery was a bit longer especially at key shipping times of the year.” She especially appreciates the reminder texts she gets when she hasn’t picked up a package within 24 hours.

Another system that’s gaining traction in New York City is Luxer One lockers.

Luxer One processes over 40 million deliveries and has more than over 4,500 locker locations in the U.S. and Canada, according to Melody Akhtari, the company’s director of marketing and communications. Pace University, for example, has over 423 lockers at five different locations on the city campus.

They are also being used by the residents of the Lafayette Boynton apartments in the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx. Dasny Troche, a hospital clerical associate who has lived there since 1996, said that before the lockers were installed, packages occasionally went astray, but “now, they come consistently and when I order something, I know that I’m going to receive it.”

Madlena Krucher, a licensed associate real estate broker with Halstead said that innovative package solutions help her move listings. Residents at The Gretsch building in Williamsburg appreciate the screen in the building lobby that shows emojis of boxes or hangers for residents who have deliveries or dry cleaning waiting for them. “People love that the system at The Gretsch is advanced and feels high-tech. It is definitely a selling point,” she said.

But not all buildings in the city have modernized.

Vivian Ducat, another Halstead agent, said that when she sold a house in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, the buyers initially could not figure out where all their packages were going.

“They discovered from speaking to a neighbor that all packages automatically went to the bodega at the end of the block,” said Ms. Ducat.

Fortunately, there were no complaints from the new homeowners about the low-tech system. “They feel like it’s a nice, homey touch.”

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

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