Would You Rather?

Who's a better neighbor: the friendly busybody or the remote stranger?

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New York is a city of almost 8.5 million people, all of them just trying to get along. We asked a few who they'd prefer to live next to: someone welcoming but intrusive or someone who doesn't even know you're alive?

  • Sharing is caring  My husband is a privately contracted pilot and is away a lot, for unpredictable stretches of time. [In the past,] I couldn’t pick my neighbors out of a line-up. I’m private and I always preferred it that way. One time, I fell ill while he was away. I started to panic that I was alone and nobody was around I could count on, and nobody would even know how to get in touch with my husband, if anything were to happen. It was a horrible feeling. Soon after that, I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked her to take my spare key--just in case. Turns out, she also wanted a neighbor to take her spare key, so we exchanged keys and contact info. Now, I have neighbor who at least knows I’m alive. But we’re also planning a dinner together. If I had to choose, I’d go for an intrusive neighbor over an indifferent one!  -Kathleen, Yorkville
  • Divine calling I’m that intrusive neighbor! I love being there for people. I’m an in-home nurse after all. When my neighbors aren’t around, I take their deliveries. They also do the same for me. We have meals together or even just coffee. If I have extra leftovers, I give that away. What is the point of living with people if you’re not going to be there for each other? Might as well live on a mountain. God put us on this earth to take care of each other, so that’s what I do. -Heather, Harlem
  • Home at last It’s funny, but I always thought I didn’t want to deal with any neighbors at all. I even resisted moving into a doorman building so I had my privacy coming and going. Then my girlfriend and I moved in together and now we have a doorman. At first, I hated feeling like I had to stop for a quick conversation, but I soon got over that. Then I started meeting neighbors who would also stop for quick conversations with the doorman, and I started conversations with them, too. Now I have I such a good feeling about coming into the building and chatting about my life with at least three people before I even hit the elevators. Everybody knows everybody’s business, but I really feel at home here and like I totally belong. -Mark, Upper West Side
  • Good walls make good neighbors I’ve been in this building for decades. People come and go, and I’m not the kind to get too attached. But in a co-op, it makes sense that you know your neighbors and get along with them. I’d say that would be true for any building where people share walls. You never know when you’ll need to be in somebody’s good graces. You’re doing a renovation, you want to rent out your place and want things to go smoothly, or if you have loud teenagers like I did at one point. But honestly, I have my own family, my own friends, I prefer my neighbors to be just acquaintances. -Margie, Upper East Side
  • No help necessary I’m on the fence about this one. I'm a really private person and I don’t feel like spilling my life story every time I encounter somebody in the hallway. I don’t even really care for that small talk we all do in the elevator. But I have to say, one time we had a kind of substantial fire in the kitchen. Nobody got hurt, and it was out in a matter of minutes, but it caused enough commotion that the whole building got wind of it. The next day, we had kitchen towels waiting by our front door and then somebody stopped by with their crockpot to lend to us! I know that was really nice and there’s probably something wrong with me, but honestly, I felt a bit intruded upon! The fire wasn’t a big deal, nobody was in danger--ever--and it was kind of embarrassing. And then I had to go around thanking people for stuff I never wanted. -Pete, Washington Heights
  • Nosy? No way! I can't stand my neighbor. She’s always forcing herself upon us. We live in a three-apartment brownstone and when she moved in, I even tried to hint that we were quiet and keep to ourselves and weren’t really looking for friends. I told her that because she was already inviting me over for coffee the first time I met her. I didn’t know how to say "no" a third time, so went up for coffee. She never shuts up, and only talks about herself. She’s always asking for a cup of milk for her coffee or asking to borrow things. I can’t relax on my balcony without her starting a conversation from hers, above mine. Once, I was away for the weekend, I found a note on my balcony that she had helped herself to some of my herbs. I get that she’s a lonely divorcee, but that’s not my problem. Except it’s a small house and we all have to get along. I wish she’d move out! -Pat, Harlem

Verdict: Intrusive is okay: 3.5; Lone wolf: 2.5

Winner: Intrusive neighbors win (by a hair).

**Offer your own thoughts in the comments section below. We'd love to hear them!

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