Would You Rather?

Who makes the best NYC neighbor: a friend or a stranger?

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New York City is all about living wall-to-wall with a diversity of humans.  We asked five New Yorkers: Would you rather live in a building where everybody knows your name? Or stay anonymous?

  • That guy I’m that person in your building you will get to know. I’m friendly and I like to get to know my neighbors. It’s just part of living in close proximity with many different types of people. —Morgan, Stuyvesant Town                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  • On my own I’m actually in the process of looking for a new place for exactly this reason: I don’t want to live in a building (brownstone) where I know everybody — really well.  We’re all friends, and having them as friends is fine, but I don’t think I want to continue living in this kind of situation. I’m looking for a place where I can get to know new people — or better yet, not get to know them… just meet them and get on with my own thing. Right now, at this stage in my life, I feel like I just want to be left by myself and be responsible only to myself. —Renee, Harlem
  • Loving communal living When I lived on the Lower East Side, I knew maybe one other person in my building. That’s it. I was good with that. But after I decided to live in a co-op uptown, that all changed. We’re a small co-op, with just 20 units. We all know each other and we are in and out of each other’s apartments all the time. I have neighbors who come watch TV with me every Sunday night. I know that one of my neighbors would look after my cat, if I needed them to. I love my building and so that makes we want to give back. I started a committee that [takes] care of planting flowers and other plants in the tree beds outside our front door, for example. We are like family, but all with our separate spaces. —Gwin, Hamilton Heights
  • I'm friendly, but not that friendly I want to be friendly with my neighbors to the extent that we are courteous to each other, and maybe give each other some leeway when it comes to noise. I know I’m nicer to somebody if I know them. That’s true most of the time for most people. So, in a totally anonymous situation, if I’m having a party in my apartment, the downstairs neighbor is more likely to be aggressive about shushing us up, or even calling the super or something. They may bang on my door and be mad and complain to my face. I’d prefer to be on friendly enough terms that they call or text me and ask me to quiet down, if it’s that bad. Or that they just say that I’m a nice neighbor otherwise that they will let me have my party and leave me alone. But no, I don’t want to be so friendly with them that I have to invite them to said party. —Amanda, Astoria
  • A dysfunctional family Shareholders in co-ops will know that we all like to talk about “being a family,” but in reality, that can bite you in the butt sometimes. I know that one of our neighbors is very heavily in arrears, but instead of being evicted, the building has chosen to work with them on a payment plan to repay the debt. This has been going on for two years. Another long-standing neighbor passed away years ago and her heirs have been allowed to “sublet” the apartment without a lease that is subject to the rental terms… because, you know, we’re family and we help family out. Another neighbor has been Airbnb-ing her apartment with impunity because she doesn’t fear the board or neighbors. Family is all well and good, but I want to protect my investment and not deadbeat shareholders and those who break the rules. —Sam, Washington Heights

Verdict:  Most New Yorkers want some space from their neighbors, though friendliness is key.


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