NYC apartment dwellers: Here are 10 tips for throwing a holiday party without pissing off the neighbors/staff/guests (or getting bed bugs)

By Marjorie Cohen  |
November 30, 2012 - 10:22AM

Bring out the pine cones and the glitter--it's holiday partytime. But, like most things in New York City, it's a little more complicated here.

If you're planning a big bash, here are 10 things for apartment dwellers to consider in addition to accommodating your partygoers' food allergies and making your one and only bathroom presentable:

1.  Be reasonable about the noise and the hour: Most co-ops have rules forbidding noise after 10pm but, as one co-op board member told us: “those rules are mostly for people who might want to practice their tuba every night. People need to be a little more flexible when a shareholder has a party.”  

As a general rule of thumb, quiet things down after midnight, particularly on weeknights. If you're pumping up the bass, be considerate and make sure the subwoofers are pulled away from shared walls and not sitting directly on top of your downstairs' neighbor's ceiling.

P.S.  If your guests spill out onto your terrace (should you be so lucky to have one), remember that outdoor space is not the same as the great outdoors. Your late-night carousing is quite audible and could potentially annoy your whole block, not just your in-building neighbors.

2.  Tell your neighbors about your party. About a week before the date, tell the folks who live on your floor about your party plans. Prepare them for more traffic in the halls and probably more noise than usual.

“Letting your condo or co-op neighbors know about the party usually takes care of 90 percent of any possible problems”, says Dean Roberts, who has dealt with many a nuisance issue as a co-op and condo attorney with Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.

3. Give your doorman a list of guests: Most doorman buildings require that guests be announced. If that's not practical because of the number of guests you’re having, give the doorman your RSVP list.

Think about thanking the doorman with a tip.

BTW, we heard of one Upper West Side shareholder who asked the doorman to wear white gloves to impress the guests. Don't even think about--even a tip won't buy you that kind of white glove treatment.

4. Make sure that your insurance--and your caterer's--is up to date:  Your caterer needs General Liability and Workers Comp coverage so that you don’t have to use your insurance if a server is injured, says apartment insurance broker Jeffrey Schneider of Gotham Brokerage

Your own co-op, condo or renter's insurance  should cover you if you are sued if an “inebriated guest leaves the party and has an auto accident," says Schneider. But if your china is broken by a clumsy guest, that won’t be covered unless you have scheduled the item or have breakage coverage.

"Most people don't," he says.

5. Remember that you're responsible for your guests while they're in your building or apartment.  If  a drunken guest pulls the fire alarm in your hall, that’s going to be your problem.

Roberts, the co-op and condo attorney, told us about a client who had a guest who fired a few gun shots after a birthday party for a 15-year-old. The host’s defense: “I didn't tell her to bring a gun.” That excuse was a non-starter with the board. 

6. Check your lease for any carpeting provisions.  If you think that the neighbors below you might complain about noise, make sure that you have complied with any provision in your lease about carpeting.

7. Avoid bed bugs. These unwanted guests are hardly what you want to be thinking about at holiday time, but you should take a few precautionary steps.

Jeff Eisenberg, founder of Pest Away Exterminating, says “be discreet “ but suggests that you “hang coats on a separate rack (not in your closet), and put plastic on the bed if people are going to be throwing their coats on it. Have a rubber container for purses and packages that your guests may be carrying.”

8. Get a coat rack for the hall. Many co-ops have coat racks that shareholders can borrow but if yours does not, or you're a renter, you can buy an inexpensive version that extends to 5 feet online.

9. Re-imagine your space. Consider how you can make your space work for a party. Move furniture around or to another room to make circulating easier. (Or to a neighbor's apartment if  you're lucky enough to have one who is willing).  

If you're planning a buffet, move your table away from the wall so that people can get to it from all sides. If you don't have many chairs, be sure the food you serve can be eaten standing up.

10. Get help. For help on the night of the party, check out Task Rabbit for hired help with everything party-related (from moving furniture to cleaning up to tending bar to serving).

You can also email [email protected], which will connect you to Barnard students who have taken a five-week course in mixology.

Gigmasters will provide you with the names of musicians for hire -- from harpists to strolling violinists.

Related posts:

BrickUnderground's 2012 Holiday Tipping Guide

New York City vertical dwellers have lots to be thankful for (though we don't always know it)

Ask an Expert: Co-op consequences for a teen's wild party

Our Dear Ms. Demeanor: Making New Yorkers more polite, one manners crisis at a time



Marjorie Cohen

Contributing writer

Marjorie Cohen is a New York City-based freelance journalist, editor and author of over seven non-fiction books. Her real estate reporting has appeared in amNewYork, Investopedia, and The West Side Rag. Since moving to New York five decades ago for graduate school at the Teachers College of Columbia University, Marjorie has lived on the Upper West Side, with a brief detour to West 15th Street when she got six months free rent in a new building.

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