Moving house is a strenuous, logistically complex process under the best of circumstances, often requiring the help of total strangers. Add a pandemic to the mix, and moving takes on a host of new risks and implications, from potentially ill workers touching your belongings, to landlords prohibiting new tenants from moving in.
Marie Elena Martinez, a single mother living in North Williamsburg, is playing her moving plans by ear. While she looks for a permanent new home, she’ll be putting her belongings into storage and moving temporarily into her parents’ home, which she’ll need a moving company to help with. However, her condo building on North 7th Street has “really locked us down,” she said. That means no delivery men, and definitely no movers. One of the building’s other tenants moved out recently, Martinez said, but they chose to entirely forego the use of a moving service and to do the move themselves, using a rented van. That’s not even a possibility for her, Martinez said. “I’m a single mom with a two-year-old: it’s not even an option.”
Given how unpredictable the situation surrounding the pandemic is, Martinez plans to put the move off until “there’s a clear directive from Governor Cuomo that [New York] is safe to move around in again.” Until that directive comes, she doesn’t want to risk inviting strangers into her home and allowing them to touch her and her daughter’s belongings.
Beyond the restrictions placed on movers and delivery people, however, Martinez isn’t worried about how long she’ll be allowed to remain in her current apartment. Her building’s landlord has been incredibly accommodating of her circumstances and has been allowing tenants to rent on a week-by-week basis while they finalize their moving plans.
Other residents are cautious of moving at all right now.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable making a move at this point in time,” said Bensonhurst resident Graceann Bianco. “As a potential home buyer, I don’t believe it is safe to check out homes during a pandemic. We do not know who is in and out of the homes, or who is sick living there. It’s going to take me a good amount of time to continue my search.”
Kensington resident Elizabeth Nelson moved around March 15th, right before most of the major shutdowns took place around the city.
While the move had to take place as quickly as possible for personal reasons, and her landlord was very amenable to having movers come into the building, she still “felt super guilty” about going forward with it because of mounting pressure from officials to stay home. If she hadn’t moved when she did, Nelson said, she wouldn’t have felt comfortable moving for a while, for fear of exposing her family and neighbors at risk to movers, and exposing the movers to everyone in the building.
“The biggest challenge is trying to stay home while still moving,” said Williamsburg resident Thea Heilbron, who is in the process of moving to Clinton Hill. “Every time I leave the apartment [I am] at risk of contracting the virus, which is the scariest part of moving during this time. The anxiety induced from taking trips to my old apartment to haul stuff out is almost crippling, but at the same time it has to get done.” Luckily, she hasn’t had any issues with her current landlords, nor the landlords of her new apartment, whom, she said, gave her the keys two weeks ahead of her move.
As a result of residents’ hesitation to move, moving companies throughout Brooklyn are losing clients at a rapid clip, in spite of being designated an essential business by New York State Executive Order 202.6.
John McCutcheon, co-owner of JP Urban Moving in Prospect Heights, said that while their March schedule was surprisingly full, mostly because moves are often scheduled weeks or months in advance, he predicts a steep drop-off for April. The schedule for April would typically be nearly full by this point, McCutcheon said. While jobs often come in at the last minute, he said, the number of clients for April is down by at least 50%. “God willing, it will fill up.”
While they’re conducting business as usual, McCutcheon said, they’re taking every precaution possible, from sourcing masks and booties for employees to wear, to bleach and disinfecting wipes for sanitizing the trucks every day, all of which are nearly impossible to track down right now. They’ve also been doing “no-contact” moves, wherein the client is not present in their home at the time of the move.
“We’re so concerned,” McCutcheon said. “We’re concerned about the workers. We’re concerned about the customers. We’re concerned about the community.”
Saad Sid, Operations Manager at NYC Great Movers in Gowanus, said the company has done roughly 50 – 60% of their normal business in the last two weeks. It’ll remain the same until the start of next week, he said, and after that, “it is going to — you can say — close down, pretty much.” Many clients also pushed their moves forward or even canceled them altogether. Previously scheduled moves will go forward as planned, Sid said. “We ourselves don’t even want to be on the road,” he said. “But the people who had made their plans — we have to make sure that we move them.”
To keep current customers from worrying, Sid said, they’ve been clearly communicating all of the measures they’re taking to safely move their belongings, from maintaining a safe distance to equipping all movers with masks and booties.