May 1, 2010

Many smaller buildings with eye on safety turn to video doorman

By DONNA ROLANDO

In apartment and condo sites too small to afford a flesh-and-blood doorman, the video variety is catching on.


Video doormen have been protecting residents and their packages in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and now are crossing the Hudson and sparking interest in New Jersey with two Hoboken communities signed on and several more targeted.

 

“A lot of people are coming from midtown Manhattan and expect doorman services,” said Larry Dolin, president of American Security Systems Inc. in Long Island City, N.Y., and inventor of Video Doorman – on the market since 2007.

 

Many large residential buildings offer doorman service as an amenity. The challenge of finding a more inexpensive alternative for smaller buildings was put to Dolin, based on American’s 30 years in the security and alarm business, and Video Doorman was born.

“To have someone to call 24/7 and know they can get the police there if necessary, it’s invaluable and very inexpensive,” said Dean Geibel, managing partner at Waterfront Management, which installed Video Doorman at Metrostop condos in Hoboken.

 

He values Video Doorman for being able to connect residents arriving home late to police if necessary and get them safely inside.

 

Like a real doorman who opens the door for residents, the Video Doorman opens the door for those with authorized card access. They swipe their card in the reader at the building entrance and go on their way. But if residents do not feel comfortable – perhaps because of a stranger or even just the late hour, the Video Doorman can do much more than that.

 

Each resident is given what Dolin calls a “transfob” (a combination transmitter and card key). When they press a button on the transfob, American Security Systems’ central station knows their identity and can focus their cameras on them. It can also ask the identity of the stranger, and if they have no reason to be there, call the police.

 

For further security, concerned residents can get a video escort, too, which means that a series of cameras within the building, each supplied with speakers and microphones, can follow them on the way to their unit.

 

This same technology is used to escort deliverymen from the front door (where they push a button on a video intercom panel allowing them to enter) to the package room, which a central station views on a TV surveillance screen to guard against theft. The deliveryman then is escorted back outside with no time to roam the building. When residents retrieve their packages, this too is recorded on camera, guarding against mistakes.

 

“We really take this very seriously,” said Dolin.

 

“We never intended to replace doormen. We wanted to give doormen services to businesses that couldn’t afford them,” he said. The New Jersey sites that have welcomed Video Doorman so far agreed that it was not a case of taking jobs. Without this technology, there would be no doorman at their developments.

 

Stephen Berini is developer of Vesta Hoboken and also resides at the 16-condo unit development.

 

“Having come from New York, I always liked the security of a doorman. Video Doorman gave us that security but without the exorbitant cost of three shifts of doormen,” he said.

 

“I actually love having the virtual doorman,” said Vesta resident Phil Marrone. He was one of Vesta’s first residents last September, and said he picked this site partly because of Video Doorman.

 

“My girlfriend and I like to do a lot of shopping online. It’s really convenient,” he said. An e-mail gives them word of arriving packages. It’s also great for dry-cleaning and for grocery deliveries, he said.

 

Dolin said residents rate the ability to get deliveries as the No. 1 reason they want a doorman service of some kind.

 

“With the advent of the Internet, everyone’s ordering,” he said. “Yet we would go around [Manhattan] and see stickers on doors,” indicating that a delivery had been aborted because no one was there to sign for it.

 

With Video Doorman, folks no longer have to see their dry cleaner, he said, and are happy about it.

 

Video Doorman’s cost is roughly $20,000 for basic installation and about $1,200 a month for service based on 40 units, Dolin said.

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