Movers in N.Y.C. Are So Busy They’re Turning People Away
On the best of days, pushing a 350-pound sofa down four steps down a narrow pre-war staircase isn’t easy. Doing this in a heat wave while wearing a mask is much more difficult.
“Sweat drips down your face, it slips off,” said Vladislav Grigor, foreman and dispatcher at Empire Movers in Manhattan. “It’s just awful.”
While the work can be merciless, this season movers are busy and happy about it.
For Mr Grigor and his colleagues, it is fair to say that this summer was like no other. During a steamy summer, not only does he have to meet the grueling physical demands of his job, he also has to adhere to the new rules of social distancing.
Add to these challenges how overworked the moving companies are. “It’s crazy out there,” said Mr. Grigor. “There are twice as many customers – maybe more – than last year.”
While the moving industry is fragmented among numerous small business owners and official statistics are hard to come by, one thing is clear: from professionals who downsize after losing their jobs, to students moving back in with their parents, to families fleeing the city for the New Yorkers change their addresses in droves in suburbs.
According to FlatRate Moving, the number of removals carried out between March 15 and August 15 increased by more than 46 percent compared to the same period last year. The number of people moving outside of New York City is up 50 percent – including an increase of nearly 232 percent in Dutchess County and 116 percent in Ulster County in the Hudson Valley.
“It felt like moving out of a college campus day,” said Bobby DelGreco, who recently moved out of his Stuyvesant Town apartment after nine years and now lives in a long-term Airbnb in Los Angeles. “All doors were open and trucks and furniture were moving everywhere.”
Matt Jahn, who owns Brooklyn-based Metropolis Moving, said he has been inundated with customer inquiries. It’s more demand than he can handle. “We reject people because we just don’t have the capacity,” he said. “We usually spend a lot of money on advertising in a given summer. But we cut it this year because we couldn’t afford it. And we still had amazing demand. “
It certainly didn’t start out like that. In mid-March, when the dire realities of Covid-19 became clear, moving companies were preparing for a slow season. “At first we weren’t sure if we could work and a lot of companies were pending,” said Daniel Norber, owner of Imperial Movers in the West Village. “Everyone was wondering if they should close the shop.”
Later that month, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the move would be considered an essential service. “Within 30 minutes of the announcement, I received a flood of calls,” said Mr. Jahn. Business has not slowed down since then, and moving companies expect the trend to continue into the fall.
“We left the first day we could move,” said Jaime Welsh-Rajchel. In mid-March, the dentist Dr. Welsh-Rajchel and their young son Henry moved out of town with their Pennsylvania family while their husband Todd Rajchel, a dental anesthetist at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Bushwick, stayed behind to spend the height of the pandemic intubating Covid patients.
Dr. Rajchel has since accepted a position at the School of Dentistry at Creighton University in Omaha, and his wife, Dr. Welsh-Rajchel, returned to Brooklyn just long enough to help transport their belongings. “Todd said it takes us five years to decompress this experience before we can return to New York for a visit,” she said.
While demand is strong, there are new problems for moving companies, largely due to an industry-wide labor shortage. “Everyone wanted to flee New York because it was the epicenter, but at the same time our moving companies got sick,” said Norber of Imperial Movers, adding that the company had lost a dozen workers who either got sick or were too scared by him has since started using company cars to pick up workers so they can avoid public transport. While many have returned to work, Mr. Norber’s company is still understaffed and around 40 percent full.
Moving companies across town told a similar story.
“We didn’t know what the summer would bring, so we weren’t hiring anytime soon,” said David L. Giampietro, FlatRate Moving’s chief administrative officer. As soon as it became clear that there would be great demand for their services, “all moving companies competed for workers”.
Another factor that made hiring difficult was the $ 600 government stimulus checks that many workers received by the end of the program earlier this month. “Nobody said it directly, but our assumption is that that was a factor too,” said Giampietro. “People didn’t want to come to work because of the program,” said Mr. Grigor, the foreman. “Why make $ 1,000 when you can make the same money when you’re not working?”
But there was a lot of work to do for those who wanted to. This summer, Kiril Gor worked six days out of seven for Imperial Movers, making about $ 1,500 a week.
“This is of course dangerous because of Covid, but we just keep working because we need the money. I don’t want to get any money from the government, ”added Mr. Gor, who had emigrated from Russia. “I want to do it myself.”
Three months ago, Sam Hassan joined Imperial Movers as a driver after his company oversaw logistics for corporate events that were suspended following the pandemic. “I refuse to feel sorry for myself,” said Hassan, a 57-year-old fitness fanatic. “It’s a lot of fun. I get paid to train.”
While moving companies have done their best to handle the influx of customers as the city continues to be empty, there are many conflicting feelings, especially for those who have left New York in a hurry. Dr. For example, Welsh-Rajchel wishes her family had more time to close. She returned for a few days in late June to help her husband move out of her apartment, but her hopes for one final hurray were quickly dashed. “It was a bummer. There were things we wanted to do before we left, but everything was closed, ”she said. “It was like a ghost town.”
They were especially wistful that they couldn’t have a last meal at Crif Dogs on Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg before it closed during the shutdown. “It was one of the first places my husband went when we moved here,” she said. “He loves hot dogs. It would have been nice to come back one last time. “