How to deal with bad neighbors
Four New Yorkers share their experiences.
Fri Oct 7 2011
The problem: Your neighbors think they own the place.
When Bryan, 28, moved into his Park Slope apartment, he found that his neighbors' kids had turned the hallway into their personal playground. "They made a game out of banging on our door to hear our dogs bark," he says. The situation escalated: The noisy clan threw a loud party, and after Bryan's requests for them to quiet down were ignored, he called the cops. "Once the police left, the neighbors threatened [us]," he explains. Bryan e-mailed the management company to make them aware of the incident, and since then, the issues have calmed down. "Bryan was smart because he documented the disturbance," says Dr. Arline L. Bronzaft, who works with community-improvement organization GrowNYC. She recommends keeping a detailed log of any problems, especially if the issue is ongoing. This way, you'll have evidence when making your case to the landlord or management company.
The problem: Your neighbor smokes so much pot you get a contact high.
Sharing a building with stoners can be a major buzzkill. "I didn't mind it in college," says Abbe, 26, who lived next to a pothead on the Upper East Side, "but it drives me crazy as an adult with a nice apartment." Bronzaft suggests finding strength in numbers. "Start out by talking to a few other neighbors to see if they'd back you up when approaching the tenant," she advises. If the problem continues, your next step should be to approach the landlord. When illicit substances are involved, most owners will be thankful you spoke up. "Just be sure to consider your own safety before getting the landlord involved when it comes to complaints about drugs or violence," notes Bronzaft.
The problem: Your neighbor is having more sex than you—and wants you to know it.
"This one is tricky," says Bronzaft, who experienced this herself when a neighbor's headboard was too close to her bedroom wall. "It's embarrassing, and you don't want to intrude on your neighbor's sex life, but noise is noise!" Your best bet is to put it in perspective. "If you can handle a discreet, polite conversation, then contrast it with a similar situation, like, 'Imagine [if] I was playing loud music at all hours of the day and night.' Try to strike a deal once you've presented your point of view." In her situation, Bronzaft came up with a more creative solution: "I befriended their cleaning person, and had her move the bed two inches farther from the wall." Whatever works.
The problem: Your neighbor doesn't listen to complaints.
When Olivia, 27, lived in an older building in the East Village, her bathroom was in a small padlocked closet across the hall. Her roommate often forgot to lock it, and a neighbor took that as an open invitation. "I'd have to knock and say, 'You're in my bathroom!' and the surly, burly man who lived next to me would grumble, 'Just a minute!'" says Olivia. She tried to take matters into her own hands. "I first wrote a very nice note and taped it to his door," she says. When that didn't work, she wrote a nasty note ("Your shit stinks, stop!") and taped it to her bathroom door. This may not have been the best solution. "You cannot be upset when [you] approach the neighbor," says Bronzaft. "Even reasonable people get frustrated, but if you want help with the problem, you have to calm down and present your case reasonably to someone who will listen."