Living Next To

Living next to a senior center: Quiet it is not

By anonymous Manhattan renter  | January 12, 2011 - 6:04AM

Last summer, I moved to a great apartment -- a small one-bedroom for $1,850  a month on a residential block. I took it over from a friend. 

I gave no thought to the building diagonally across from me. I didn't even notice the orange traffic cone situated out front, near the street sign that says "passenger loading zone."  The building, it turns out, provides affordable housing for low-income senior citizens and also houses a senior center.

A week into my tenure, I was awakened in the wee hours by lights and sirens. Little did I know that ambulances would regularly be arriving in the middle of the night. The sirens aren't the worst of it. Those are turned off while the ambulance is idling out front. It's those flashing lights that I can't bear. Though I'm a fairly heavy sleeper, they wake me every time. I put a pillow over my head until the ambulance departs and I can go back to sleep. It happens about once every week or two.

I purchased dark curtains for the bedroom window. The window is a humongous 95 inches high, so I got 95 inch long curtains, the longest size I could find at Ikea. But the curtain rod had been mounted several inches above the window. The result is that the curtain rod hoists the curtain up, so it doesn't reach all the way to the sill, leaving a gap of a few inches where the flashing lights glare through. 

During the daytime, there's a different issue. I often work from home and am on the phone a lot. The access-a-ride van stops in front of the senior center but, despite the designated passenger loading zone, it often double parks and blocks a lane. It takes a while to load or unload its wheelchair-bound passenger. So the first big vehicle that comes by can't get through. Then, cars back up and honk relentlessly, making for a difficult phone conversation.

The residents don't seem to spend much time coming and going. I rarely notice them outside. They don't hang out or sit out front, the way the old folks do at the nursing home a few blocks away. (There, when the weather is nice, they put chairs outside and witness the passing parade. Once, one of the residents, bless her, handed me a dollar and asked me to pick her up a Snickers bar from the deli across the avenue.)

For now, I live with the lights and noise. The disruption is tolerable, if unpleasant. At some point I'll borrow a ladder, haul out my toolbox and reposition the curtain rod, which will help a bit.

I'll probably buy a place and move when my two-year lease expires. I'm just glad that I'm not the one who needs to live in senior housing or, more to the point, in low-income senior housing. I figure those elderly people need their ambulance or their wheelchair van more than I need my sleep. 

Living Next to a....  is a recurring series exploring the good, the bad, and the memorable of living near someplace others would rather not.  Have a story to share? Let us know--we'd love to hear!

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