Monday, February 25, 2013

Manhattan Style | Co-op Boards, Noise, Pollution and Arrogance

Although I have been living in NYC for over two decades  I am not used yet to the arrogance and lack of respect often experienced in my neighborhood (Upper West Side) and more specifically, in the building where I have been  a resident for almost twenty-five years. Basic rules which should be part of having a residence (a private space) adjacent to other residences (private spaces occupied by others) are often completely ignored.
I am currently working on a paper for a conference in New Zealand —quite ironically dealing with “ancient wisdom” and celebration of natural events— and my focus on thinking and writing has been challenged (and overcome) by loud demolition/construction noises from a nearby apartment. Illustrating and writing  about the intensity of the hue of the sky during the sunrise, celebrated by the singing of birds in the stillness of the landscape, has become an impossible task with the relentless pounding, hammering and drilling noise coming from the apartment upstairs.
Since 2007, when I made a professional choice of telecommuting, this is not the first time I experience negative interferences with my personal and professional life because of noise and environmental pollution  due to the constant renovation work of apartments in the building. Countless times I expressed my physical  (dust allergies) and mental (lack of concentration) distress provoked the constant apartments renovations as emails to the co-op board and the managing agent. The typical reply can be summarized as "You have to live with it" as if an apartment renovation was an emergency, an unpredictable and unavoidable event. My requests of basic courtesy such as trying to minimize the major inconveniences by providing a schedule of work or noise cancelling headphones, or even an apologize, have always been ignored.
“Built to Be Demolish” seems to be the ground rule of NYC commercial and residential construction, unfortunately effecting everybody, not only in homes but in streets as well, where breathing building materials dust is unavoidable. The quick cycles of "cheap construction / demolition / cheap construction" are witnessed non only in my building but overall Manhattan, where an extremely fast turnover of construction reflects the extreme mobility causing unstable places and lack of strong communities in the neighborhoods. The apartment upstairs has been (extremely noisily) renovated twice in less than four years. "Neighbors" come and go in an extremely fast turnover, often completely unnoticed, but for the noise and pollution caused by their renovations.
Don’t misunderstand: I am not trying to emphasize the good of rural lifestyle vs. urban living. This blog is a proof of my (almost daily) urban walkabouts of several miles, through the many hectic neighborhoods encountered during my 5+ miles walks. But I value the making of strong communities, the respect for individual private spaces, and, perhaps,most of all,  courtesy —even in a frantic cosmopolitan city.
An oxymoron?