Living Next To

I lived above a chicken restaurant. The noise was bad but the vermin were worse

When the exterminator sprayed the restaurant, "it was like the stampede scene in 'Jumanji.' All the insects and rodents fled up to our apartment—mice, roaches, and those giant, winged water bugs," a New Yorker named Robert recalls.   

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When the Yorkville store selling video porn downstairs from a New Yorker named Robert closed, he was more dismayed by what took its place: A Peruvian chicken restaurant that made him and his girlfriend lose sleep because there was lots of noise until late at night. It also created a huge insect and rodent problem that ultimately led to a lawsuit in Housing Court. Here’s Robert’s story.

Years ago, I lived in a first-floor apartment in a walk-up building on First Avenue in the low 90s. with a roommate, a friend from grad school. We thought the pornographic video store below us was pretty funny. The clientele didn’t worry us because we were two tough guys in our 20s. And, this is New York after all—you can expect to live near places like this. Still, it went out of business as videos gave way to Internet porn. Eventually, my roommate moved out and my girlfriend moved in.

There were other sketchy stores. We were two doors down from a bodega that we figured had to be a front for drugs or numbers because it had little inventory or customers. I once had a craving for something salty, so I tried to buy a Slim Jim from one of the few displays they had on the counter and the guy there did not know what to do with my money or how to make change. It was funny, and it also added to the flavor of the neighborhood.


[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Living Next to” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to have an iconic or unusual New York City neighbor. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]


But the same could not be said about the Peruvian chicken restaurant that replaced the video store. The smell was not so bad, but I kept having to call and complain because the kitchen crew played loud music after 11:00 p.m. while they were cleaning up and we were trying to sleep. They would usually comply.

But one night they did not answer the phone, so I went downstairs and knocked on the door. When they still did not answer, I banged on their plate glass window. That got a response and we then had a "discussion” about my need for sleep and their need for an intact window that could "accidently" break. You should know that I was a nationally ranked powerlifter and a U.S. bench press champion and looked the part. Unsurprisingly, they turned down the music.  

I wish that was the only issue we had with the place. The bigger problem was when their exterminator would come. After he sprayed, it was like the stampede scene in "Jumanji." All the insects and rodents fled up to our apartment—mice, roaches, and those giant, winged water bugs.   

When we complained to the landlord and asked him to also send the exterminator to our apartment, management refused. I told the landlord that I would hire my own exterminator and withhold the cost from my rent. I did just that, but the landlord tried to evict me. Next we received a default judgment for eviction. When our case was heard in Housing Court, I argued that we had never been served with the complaint.

The landlord's process server claimed he had knocked on our door on the evening of March 15th and when he did not get an answer, left a copy of the complaint. He also testified that the door to the was plain and unremarkable. My girlfriend got on the stand and testified that if the process server had knocked on the door, she would have heard it "because March 15th is my boyfriend's birthday and I was waiting by the door to surprise him." Also, she had decorated the door with streamers and other birthday decorations. Thankfully, the judge found her testimony to be credible and threw the landlord's case out. Still, he said he would sue us again. 

But by then, my credible girlfriend had become my fiancée, so this being New York, we gave the landlord the middle finger and moved to a doorman high rise around the corner on York Avenue—we enjoyed the neighborhood and didn’t want to leave it.

I made sure never to eat at that neighborhood restaurant. I was not going to give them my money after all the problems they caused me and especially because I knew what was crawling around the food.