GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: A Time to Pause and Reflect

Richard Haggerty | April 2020

Park Ave. NYC, photo credit: Amy Marchesi

I am writing this column on April 12th, Easter Sunday, from my apartment in New York City. A month ago, most of us expected that the Coronavirus would impact our lives to some degree, but few of us anticipated the depth of that impact. We closed the HGAR offices and sent the staff home to work remotely on March 18th. On March 22nd Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the “Pause” Executive Order that directed all New Yorkers who did not fall into the “essential professions” to stay at home and embrace social distancing. During that time, we have witnessed the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths tragically spike, and New York became the epicenter of the virus.

There are some recent glimmers of hope for the New York metro area. There are some signs that the “curve” of new cases is flattening. However, there is also increasing evidence that life will not go back to normal quickly, and indeed we will, in all likelihood, have a new normal where virus testing and containment becomes a way of life until an effective vaccine is developed.

In the meantime, we urge everyone to stay at home and practice social distancing and all recommended safety protocols. We also recommend embracing virtual tools as a means of working with clients and fellow agents. I for one have never participated in so many Zoom meetings in my life, and I must admit they are effective. I anticipate virtual showings of properties will continue to grow and I’m aware of at least one transaction which is in contract where the buyer has not yet stepped foot into the property.

While we embrace new ways of doing business, we cannot forget that our legal and moral obligations to fellow agents and consumers are now even more relevant than ever. April is Fair Housing month and prior to the onslaught of the Coronavirus we had several events on the calendar, including a Fair Housing Summit. We are in the process of transitioning those events to a virtual environment, and we must recognize the importance of fair housing training and compliance even in an environment of virtual showings. Sadly, there have been increased reports of discrimination against individuals of Asian descent during this pandemic. No form of discrimination is acceptable, and we will do our part as an industry to eradicate it.

Despite the grim headlines, during this period of Passover and Easter celebrations, I am optimistic. I do see a brighter horizon. I do believe in the power of community. We are resilient and we have come back from adversity before. For me, the best part of everyday is at 7 p.m., when the residents of New York City open the windows of their apartments and cheer and clap and beat pans and play instruments, thanking the countless number of healthcare workers, first responders, the police, firefighters, grocery store workers, transit workers; all of the individuals who are truly on the frontlines of this pandemic. We cannot thank them enough and we cannot forget their sacrifices once this virus is contained. I also want to acknowledge the HGAR staff during these difficult times—they may not be essential workers under the current Executive Order, from my perspective they are indeed essential and vital and they have worked tirelessly to quickly transition HGAR services to a remote and virtual environment, and they are here for you during this period of “pause.”

To all the members of the HGAR family, stay well and stay safe!

Richard Haggerty
HGAR CEO