What’s the scariest thing about October? Ghosts? Goblins? Voter suppression? Surprising no one, the real answer is the threat that has been bedeviling New York since March: COVID-19.
After all that the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken from us this year, it’s now set to disrupt kids’ favorite fall activity, trick-or-treating. Many families are reconsidering the safety of visiting dozens of buildings and interacting with strangers all night. Co-op and condo boards that hosted parties or organized trick-or-treating floor-to-floor in the past are expressing similar concerns. Some are banning traditional activities altogether.
“In talking to my boards, there are quite a few that have said ‘No Halloween this year,’” says Gustavo Rusconi, the director of management at Argo Real Estate. “Residents are uncomfortable with the idea of lots of kids.” Dee DeGrushe, an account executive at the property management company Orsid New York, says that a couple of her properties are not even decorating, in an effort to discourage children from coming into the building seeking goodies.
Boards are right to be concerned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled many traditional Halloween activities “high-risk,” including door-to-door trick-or-treating, crowded costume parties, even haunted houses.
However, not all boards agree that the holiday needs to be cancelled entirely. Deborah Koplovitz, an attorney at the law firm Anderson Kill, represents buildings that are doing their best to ensure that kids have at least a little fun. “Some buildings are having goodie bags prepared to pass out as the kids come in or out past the doorman,” she says. “I have also recommended doing a parade on the sidewalk where the building or other residents can give out goodie bags.”
Rusconi has heard of similar plans. “Some buildings have decided they’re just going to put a large bowl in the lobby so building children can pick up a piece of candy,” he says. “But celebrations this year are going to be very simple.” In one of DeGrushe’s buildings, staff and management are taking it one step further: after bagging candy, they’re going to deliver it to every apartment with a child, so that the smallest residents can still get candy without endangering themselves or their neighbors.
It seems that most residents are in favor of the modified celebrations. Koplovitz says committees in her buildings are planning the adjusted activities, and there hasn’t been any blowback in buildings that are banning trick-or-treating but allowing curtailed festivities. “Generally,” she says, “I think residents are pretty receptive to trying to salvage something of the ‘normal’ celebration.”
Koplovitz points out that outdoor parades and grab-and-go goodie bags probably won’t present too much risk, but boards should be aware that the CDC does label these activities “moderate risk.” While this doesn’t mean that boards should cancel everything, it does mean that they should be cautious. All participants at outdoor parades or gatherings should maintain social distancing and wear masks. (Costume masks are not an appropriate substitute for cloth masks.) Staffs preparing grab-and-go goodie bags should wash their hands thoroughly before and after preparing them, and all residents and children who take goodie bags should use hand sanitizer before and after.
Norma Potter, an on-site management executive from AKAM, says her building is focusing its celebrations in a different direction: at the complex on East 16th Street, the board has cancelled the annual Halloween party and trick-or-treating but is still encouraging residents to submit carved or decorated pumpkins to be displayed throughout the building, including at the front desk and in the courtyard. “We have quite a lot already,” Potter says. “It’s pretty! Kids like to see their work displayed for everyone to see.” Nothing scary about that.