Q. My neighbors smoke on their terrace, usually nude, talking on a cell phone and yelling back into the apartment. My window is three feet away from their terrace. I have written them, the building’s management company, and called 311, but they won’t take the complaint as they have no category for this situation. Without hiring a lawyer, is there anything I can do? I’m highly allergic to secondhand smoke.
Wow, this is a veritable turducken of neighborly annoyances – smoking, public nudity and cellphone chattering, all rolled up into one. (NB: I will invoke the mighty turducken whenever I see an opening). You are correct, 311 does not have a category for naked smoking cellphone yammering.
But don’t despair. You have options, without having to shell out for a lawyer.
Have you expressed your concern directly to the birthday besuited terrace dwellers? There are a number of helpful tactics you can use in order to assert your position without eliciting a defense response. Click here for a step-by-step process for dealing with conflict directly. It usually works.
Except when it doesn’t. Sometimes you need someone to get in the middle.
We at the New York Peace Institute mediate neighbor complaints all the time. Here’s how it works. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 212.577.1740 (Manhattan) or 718.834.6671 (Brooklyn). If you’re in a different borough, we’ll direct you to an appropriate mediation provider there.
So, when you call us, we’ll listen to your situation, and schedule a mediation session between your and your neighbors toute suite. In mediation, you’ll have a chance to express your concerns in a safe, confidential environment, in the presence of a highly trained community mediator. The mediator will listen to all sides of the issue, and will guide you through a process designed to generate options and possible solutions to the conflict.
A typical mediation session lasts about 2 hours, but we can easily reschedule if you need more time. And it really works. Most people who come to mediation leave with a mutually acceptable agreement – or at least a better understanding between each other.
Here’s the best part. The cost? Zilch, zero, nada, bupkis, the null set. It’s free! We’re funded by the Mayor’s Office and the Unified Court System to keep the peace in our communities. So you have nothing to lose. And if it doesn’t work, you can still go to court. Since mediation is confidential, nothing you say in the session can be used in court…so no worries about, er, exposing yourself.
And, while it’s an informal process, we do ask client to show up in clothing, our building does not permit smoking, and we recommend that folks put their cell phones on self-destruct for the duration of the meeting. So, at the very minimum, it would allow you to see if your neighbors are capable of having a clothed, two-way, smoke-free tête-à-tête.
PS You have a terrace in NYC?