Brooklyn Housing Co-Op Upgrades Security With Video Intercom System

The Park Vanderbilt building updated its aging audio-only intercom with the help of Academy Mail Box and Aiphone Corp.

NEW YORK CITY – Change is underway in the popular Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. As the area becomes more family-friendly, many homeowners are making improvements, including important security upgrades, to capitalize on rising housing prices. The Park Vanderbilt, a seven-story, 148-unit co-op building, is a good example.

Constructed in 1963, the building had an aging audio-only intercom allowing apartment residents to speak with visitors and remotely open the lobby door’s electronic lock.

Both the co-op’s board and management company wanted to present a more modern first impression for young, tech-savvy homebuyers and also address the security situation. This led them to consider a video intercom system.

“Park Vanderbilt doesn’t have a 24- hour concierge, so the board chose to go with video intercoms to give them a better idea of who’s asking to enter the building,” said property manager Tom Randazzo of Excel Bradshaw Management Group.

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After soliciting bids, the board chose Queens, N.Y.-based Academy Mail Box, the largest full-service provider of mailboxes, surveillance cameras, intercoms and access control to New York City co-ops.

Dan Arnold, Academy’s vice president, said one reason his bid was attractive was the company’s ability to reuse existing cable from the old intercom system.

“By using the existing cable – with the exception of two units – we were able to save $20,000 on the job,” he said. “Running all new wire would also have added a week or more to the installation process.”

The $110,000 project was completed in three weeks in the winter of 2015.

Two video intercoms from Aiphone Corp. were placed near entries at each end of the long first-floor building lobby. A third unit was installed at the service entrance. Each recessed stainless-steel panel includes a color camera with a 170° view, a microphone and a digital keypad to page individual apartments.

Stations within each unit allow tenants to have a hands-free, two-way conversation with visitors. Tenants also have pan/tilt/zoom control of the entry panel camera. With a push of a panel button, tenants can unlock the electronic lock on the entrances to buzz-in visitors.

A concierge station sits on the building superintendent’s desk. Tenants who will not be home or do not want to be bothered can arrange for the superintendent to allow deliveries or preapproved visitors into the building.

During installation, one minor problem became apparent.

The intercoms were also placed in the building’s lobby.

“The older audio-only intercom units had a larger footprint, leaving a gap surrounding the new, more compact Aiphone tenant stations,” Randazzo said. “Academy designed a metal plate to fill the gap. It looked good and saved us the need to replaster and paint in each unit.”

Board members also wanted to increase security with more surveillance. Academy added nine cameras and two 16-channel DVRs from Hanwha (formerly Samsung) to go with 16 existing cameras. The new cameras were added to the garage, front of the building, service entrance and a patio backyard shared by all residents.

Academy also recently completed a similar installation using the same Aiphone system as the Brooklyn project, but in this case at a Manhattan co-op building. The security integrator implemented a new video intercom system at the Sands, a 111-unit apartment building near the United Nations Headquarters, the site of frequent political protests.

Protestors often used the co-op’s vestibule to escape rain or cold. By replicating the Park Vanderbilt setup, Academy was able to keep the Sands vestibule locked at all times.

The intercom system includes a door release timer that can be set from a few to as many as 20 seconds once tenants remotely unlock the door. As with the Brooklyn project, Academy was able to reuse wire of an audio-only intercom.


Bio: Bruce Czerwinski is U.S. general sales manager for Aiphone Corp.

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