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The Apartment Next Door

Everyone wants the apartment next door so they can have a place in the city as big as their friend’s house in the country, though few of us realize this fantasy because: a) it costs too much, and b) somebody already lives there. I can’t help you with the first, but  there are  ways round the second if you know how to work the system.

Offer a bucket of money, which in this economy might actually work even if you’ve been rebuffed before.  If that doesn’t get action, wait for the person to drop dead, and while you’re waiting cultivate a friendship – or at least a relationship – the way those museum curators courted Herb and Dorothy and lots of other people whose paintings they want after they go to the beyond.  This strategy takes patience.

My friend waited for her ninety-five year old neighbor’s demise longer than Prince Charles has been waiting for the Queen’s, then finally decided to buy the apartment on the other side only to find that there was a structural wall between the two, thereby violating Rule #1 – do your homework before you buy – a mistake you will not make. (Even if the apartments can be combined, it doesn’t mean the board will let you, which is why you should find out before you sign on the dotted line or you could be stuck like the River Terrace owner with disunited spaces. (See below.)

There is a third way.  Not a way I condone, but one that you need to know about so you can play defense if yours is the coveted apartment:  The power of incumbency.  Yup, it requires getting on the board, and for some it is The Reason for doing so.  Because once a regular resident becomes a chieftain he has the power to ROLL OVER YOU like a panzer and make your life so unpleasant that you’ll want to move. (This strategy works most effectively if the apartment is still occupied by a renter but owned by the sponsor, who won’t hold a grudge, and will be happy to sell to the highest bidder.)

Here are some of the tactics The Apartment Aggressor may use:

  • Barrage you with letters cataloguing your offenses – a dog without a leash, an unreturned luggage cart – while ignoring the same infractions committed by others.
  • Pass new rules aimed just at you.
  • Complain your cigarette smoking is asphyxiating his cat, while turning a blind eye to his friend’s hash habit.
  • Report to the authorities that you are creating a fire hazard every time you leave the door ajar for two minutes when you go to toss the trash.
  • Call the cops whenever your music inches above the allowable decibel level.
  • Accuse you of being a member of Al Qaeda (See, The Terrorist Next Door.)

What do you do?  It’s a delicate balance.  You don’t want to up the ante thereby giving ammunition to someone who has power over you. But you can’t sit back and do nothing while he creates evidence that collectively could be used to make a case that YOU’VE BEEN BAD – Objectionable, in High Rise Society parlance. (See, How Bad Do You Have to Be?) Here are some counterstrategies:

  • Lay low, hoping he’ll realize the error of his way.
  • Start requesting management to send him letters for every rule he breaks.
  • Get a board member on your side to raise the issue at the next meeting, opening the way to divide and conquer strategy.
  • Keep a log of infractions by fellow residents that have gone unreported to show you’re being treated unequally.
  • Get someone to goad The Aggressor into admitting how much he wants your apartment, which may be easier than you think because people with large egos have trouble containing them.

If you’ve done your job well, The Aggressor may be forced to back down – even move – allowing you to buy his apartment. As you know by now, turnabout is fair play in High Rise Society.

For the saga of the River Terrace shareholder, see: Gellman v. River Terrace Apartments, 2009 NY Slip Op. 31990(U), Aug. 28, 2009, Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co., accessibile at Search NY Slip Decisions by inserting the date and case number under Search By Citation.

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