At first, it sounds like a fairy tale: A couple finds a beautiful Soho loft that is inexplicably reasonably priced. They furnish it and settle in, and everything is perfect.
And then...the horror.
No, it isn’t bed bugs or crazy landlords. It’s my father.
See, my dad is an artist who makes twenty-foot-tall metal sculptures. Seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., he welds and grinds and grinds and welds.
As a result, living in our building is like living next to a construction site every day of your life. You know that sickening, startled feeling you get when a construction worker accidentally drops a huge piece of sheet metal, and everybody on the street stops and is like, “What was that?!” That’s what it’s like living in our building.
To make matters worse, since most of dad’s sculptures are too big for the elevator, we have to keep a crane on hand in our apartment (because who doesn’t?). It’s six feet tall and has an arm that extends out the window about twenty feet. It’s noisy, too, and when the sculptures are being lowered out the window, the street is basically shut off for a bit.
So on top of the daily cacophony of welding and grinding—and the occasional thud of a huge piece of stainless steel hitting the floor—our neighbors have to deal with the crane situation a few times each month. It’s pretty daunting, like, “Is this going to fall on me?”
There are six apartments in our building, each a one-floor loft. We’re on the fifth floor and the people below us own their place. (Like everyone in my family, they must be extremely sound sleepers.)
Everyone else rents. They usually stay about five months, and then they can’t take it anymore. I mean, you can’t really avoid the subtle humming of a generator.
Whenever someone new moves in, it’s always the same.
First they try to rationalize the noise away as temporary. Then, when it continues, they walk up the stairs (dun dun duhhhhh!). They knock on the door. One of us opens it. They start with the questions.
“What’s going on here? What are you doing? Are you murdering someone in your apartment?”
Then they air their grievances: “I have a guest over! My kids are trying to sleep! I’m trying to work!” Once they understand what the problem is—and that it’s not going to go away—they get pissed.
At one point, a famous fashion designer moved in above us. (For the purposes of this article, we’ll call him “Dimitri.”) I wanted to be Dimitri’s BFF so badly. But it wasn’t meant to be. Inevitably, he did come to our door...but it was only to complain that my dad was making too much noise. Dimitri was furious—and who could blame him?
It’s rough being the most hated family in the building. We’re basically shunned.
I’ll walk into the lobby, and people will suddenly stop talking. I’ll be in the elevator with a new tenant, and I’ll be like, “Hi! You just moved in, right?” And their eyes will convey this look that says I know who you are: You’re his daughter.
I guess their point of view is, even though I’m not the culprit, I’m his spawn, so therefore I’m somehow contributing to this vicious cycle of noisiness.
While our poor neighbors are living their nightmare, my dad is living the New York City real-estate dream.
He has lived in his rent-stabilized, 4,000-plus-square-foot loft since 1961 and pays less than $1,000 a month. Yeah, you heard me: It costs more for our landlord to heat our apartment than we pay in rent. It’s kind of magic.
My dad does feel bad about being so noisy.
To try to make up for it, he has become a sort of roaming super. He’s lived in this building since its inception—has had this apartment since before Soho was Soho, after all—so he knows how the electricity works and how to keep the pipes from freezing in the winter and whatnot. He can build anything; he could build another building with all the tools he has.
Neighbors call him whenever they need some obscure metalworking done. But they still hate us.
Back in the ’80s, the landlord and my dad got into physical fights because of the noise. It had something to do with the landlord wanting to put “real tenants." They’ve since acknowledged that they can’t get rid of each other.
And so my advice to you, New York City apartment hunters, is this: Figure out who’s living next door to you before you buy your apartment (especially if the price is too good to be true)—and pray that it is not my father.