I am a civil servant, and my wife works for a nonprofit organization. Both of us are currently based at home due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
We support families, children, senior citizens and people with disabilities to access several key programs. The perspectives and narratives presented in this Point of View are our own as private citizens, and do not represent those of our employers.
We chose to settle in Riverdale more than a year ago due to its views of the Hudson River, and the subdued ambience of the neighborhood — a reprieve we welcomed. However, ever since we arrived, our neighbors and their guests have been nothing short of problematic. Excessively loud bass-laden music, partying, shrieking, screaming, shouting, the stench of copious marijuana, and even the sounds of possibly violent events have emanated from our neighbor’s unit — often until 4 a.m.
It is vital for people to get regular sleep and breathe clean air, and that’s especially true for us given the important nature of the work my wife and I do. We have tried to address our concerns with the neighbor in question, the management company for our building, our city councilman’s office, and even the 50th Precinct more recently — a saga that has taken months to balloon to this stage.
Calls to 311 have dispatched police to the building more than 10 times due to the nuisance, but we have seen little change to date.
At times, 311 complaints are mysteriously closed without anyone coming out to investigate, or claiming nothing was discovered despite the music rattling through the hallway, the screams reverberating, and the unpleasant odors of stale marijuana and other consumables wafting about. Few involved feel any urgency or any sense of accountability for their part in resolving the situation.
Quality of life issues are downplayed and pooh-poohed by lawmakers and authorities alike, but we know that the factors that underpin quality of life — health and environmental variables (including exposure to air and noise pollution), chronic daily stress, and community safety and cohesion — correlate with life expectancy and the incidence of chronic health conditions.
They affect cognitive status and mental health throughout the life cycle, from children to the elderly. We see it study after study. Where you live and who lives near you can — and does — greatly affect your health and well-being.
The narratives of this Point of View do not fully lay bare all of the emotions of our experience: The terror and anxiety that sets in as night approaches, not knowing if we will be bombarded with noise and kept awake for hours on end, with headaches to boot. Not knowing if our throats will be irritated by drifting marijuana smoke.
The fact that my wife and I are brown people in a largely white neighborhood makes us conscious that our actions may be closely scrutinized, and that we could be judged by the actions of those who resemble us, but who are unknown to us.
And it goes on.
I am dismayed that we have been so disturbed in what is an otherwise pleasant area. There is so much potential here, and we are saddened and angered we have not been able to enjoy it as much as we had hoped.
If people want to know how to thank those who have worked to uplift others during this costly and deadly epidemic, it is not through platitudes or token phrases, but through action. Be a thoughtful, considerate, respectful neighbor. Landlords and their representatives, as well as the authorities, should enforce codes and policies fairly so that problematic individuals do not feel emboldened to disrespect the community or violate rules.
Ensure that there are appropriate consequences for parties who are anti-social, rude and defiant in the face of the chaos, disturbance and damage they cause. Empower yourself and your neighbors to hold actors to account for their lack of suitable response.
This will make your life — and mine — a whole lot better while ensuring our community continues to recover and develop as it should, especially as we pick up the pieces from the wreckage of the past year’s events.