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When Briana, an Ohio transplant, moved to a rent-stabilized two bedroom on the Upper East Side, she was intimidated by the noisy teens who congregated outside a nearby youth residence center. But when the facility was replaced by a Mormon church, she found she was more disturbed by eager congregants looking for recruits. Still, a male exhibitionist posed the biggest annoyance of all. Here’s Briana’s story:
Back when I was 25, a friend and I moved into a two-bedroom, fifth-floor walk-up because it was rent stabilized and a decent size for Manhattan. I didn’t pay that much attention to the neighborhood at first, other than noticing it seemed safe and clean. So I don't recall being aware of the teen facility when I moved in.
But the 40-bed youth residence center became intimidating to me because the kids loitered outside all the time and could be quite loud. Because my apartment building was on the opposite side of the street, I never came in direct contact with the kids. Over the years, I started to feel a strange comfort knowing they would be there at all hours of the night when I was coming or going. I even began waving—from a distance—to the ones who became familiar to me. I guess all my years of watching “Law & Order” made me feel like these teens could possibly make great witnesses should something happen on my East 87th Street block.
[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 they weren’t the worst neighbors by any means. There was someone who was much stranger—and much closer.
A plump, older man lived in the building next to mine and his kitchen window was about two feet from my own across a small alley. The first time that I encountered him, I was standing at the sink washing dishes, and I heard someone clear their throat. I looked over and there he was—buck naked at his sink. He was cooking or cleaning and I could see him in all his glory, save his face, which was covered by conveniently placed blinds.
After a few more occurrences it became apparent he was doing it on purpose. It began to happen often. I wasn't much for cooking, but this guy really gave me no reason to want to be in the kitchen.
The noisy teens were nothing compared to this annoyance. At least they weren’t naked and two feet away from me.
At first my roommate and I laughed about it, but after a while it became a real nuisance because we were forced to keep our blinds down. This made the apartment darker and provided less ventilation to the apartment. We'd get brave and open them for a while and then we’d be treated to the full monty yet again.
We never complained to his building’s management, but I do remember making loud comments directed at him. We were young so we thought at the time that we had to deal with him on our own. When I would be outside the apartment, I would imagine that I saw him but I wasn't ever really sure because I never saw him dressed and his face was often obscured.
He became a part of living there, much like the teens.
After about five years, the teen residence was torn down and a grand Mormon church was built in its place. I was actually upset when the building was demolished and wondered where those kids would go from there. I really hoped it would be somewhere better because their residence center looked like a prison, since it was made of cement with barbed wire around it.
The Mormon church was quite a change for the neighborhood, with a different look and a different energy. It was one of three chapels developed in Manhattan by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with ornate, stained glass windows. And while I certainly wasn’t bothered by the youth center, my neighbors may not have felt the same. After it was announced the teen center would be demolished, some went on record saying the teens “bothered people.”
However, while the members of the Mormon church were always pleasant and friendly (and fully clothed), they ended up being more of a bother than the teens. The kids were loud, but kept to themselves. Once construction was done, the congregation began buzzing our apartment, shoving pamphlets in the doorway, and approaching us on the street to urge us to attend church services.
Eventually, like many New York relationships, it became about respectful avoidance. They stopped buzzing and some quick eye contact when they made an approach let them know (without words) that we wouldn't be coming to services. In fact, I joked that there was a better chance of me ending up in a teen residence center—or with the naked dude next door—than joining the church.
When I moved into that apartment, I thought it was a temporary solution, but then ended up staying in the building for 12 years. My (now) husband moved in after I had been there for five years—and we stayed until we had a baby.
As for the nudist, that was a battle I lost. He donned a t-shirt after my husband moved in, but not much else. He continued to be nearly naked for the duration of my lease.
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