Friday, February 19, 2021

Good-bye West 85th Street

Five years ago I was so happy with my new apartment on West 85th Street. It was an improvement in many ways over my previous apartment in Astoria, but the biggest benefit was the large elm tree growing at the far end of the deck belonging to apartment 1B, one floor below me. My first view of the tree in daylight was during a light snow and I saw bluejays hopping among its branches. It was so unexpectedly beautiful and charming and I felt very lucky to have found that apartment.

Windows filled the back wall of my apartment and the elm tree filled the windows and even in the winter provided some privacy from the large 86th Street apartment building's back wall full of apartment windows. In the summer it was glorious and shady and green and provided almost total privacy.

It was quite a tall tree, about five stories, so it must have been there for decades, certainly before the deck, which had been built around the tree.

In addition to the elm tree there was the two-story tall pine tree in the yard of the ground-floor apartment, B; and the ivy climbing all over the apartment building wall, and which framed my bedroom window.

So the pine tree, elm tree and and ivy must have been growing for years before I moved there. But one by one they were taken away, in less than five years.

The first to go was the pine tree which can be seen in this photo, to the right of the elm tree.

A nice older couple had lived in apartment B for decades and the first year I was in my apartment they moved away. I know they were nice because they threw a party for everybody in the building in the summer, just before they moved out. Oddly, only people from the B line came to the party. There are two "lines" in the building, the A line, whose apartments all face 85th Street and the B line, with back-facing apartments.

A young couple moved into apartment B right after the older couple left and almost immediately they chopped down the pine tree. And they didn't even stay around long to enjoy their atrocity, they moved out a few years later. But they had done their duty to make my apartment worse.

Next to go was the ivy. The woman above me in 3B nagged the building handyman until he killed all the ivy. She had been in the building for years and years and the ivy had also been there for a long time, but somehow when I was living there it had to go.

And the handyman didn't take the dead plants out after he killed them, he just left them there to rot, so that instead of living green ivy leaves around my bedroom window, it was dead rotting black leaves which caused me to have allergy symptoms. This same woman also nagged the handyman to prevent him from turning the heat on in the beginning of the autumn heating season every year because it made her apartment hot. She didn't care how that affected anybody else. My apartment was freezing. 

But worst of all was when the creeps, Michael and Joe, who lived in apartment 1B, killed the elm tree. I heard second-hand they claimed they had to kill the tree because it was sick or some such bullshit - but it looked fine to me, and after I had my own separate run-in with those assholes I believe it was a lie invented because they wanted a sunny deck instead of a shady one. So instead of a big old elm tree, during the last summer I got to look at two chubby middle-aged men doing yoga.

But the assholes in 1B were not done making my life miserable. They killed the tree in December 2019. In February 2020, I arrived home one night after work. It was around 6PM. I did the usual home-from-work things: I changed, I fed my cat, I started dinner. Then I heard a banging sound coming from the floor of my living room like someone was hitting it. I ignored it because I hadn't been making unusually loud noises and it was 6 o'clock in the very early evening. It wasn't possible somebody would bang to complain about the noise. So I thought.

I had already been living in my apartment for four years when this incident occurred, and 1B had never complained about my noise in all the time, except for the one incident when I broke a glass in the late evening and ran the vacuum cleaner so my cat wouldn't step in glass shards. It literally took me 30 seconds to vacuum and I was finished before Joe ran up the stairs to bang on the door and tell me to stop.

But in spite of 1B having almost no complaint about my noise for four years, they had been banging at me in February 2020 because the next day after work I found a nasty note from them telling me I made too much noise. My habits had not changed in 4 years, but they suddenly decided I was too noisy.

And since I couldn't stop walking in my apartment, there was nothing I could do about their sudden tetchiness and so I ignored them. I didn't have much of a connection to them anyway and an incident at the B line party that first summer, the one thrown by the nice older couple, had already revealed how vicious Michael was: I was making conversation during the party, as one does, and I asked him about his business making women's dresses. He responded: "you couldn't afford them." I was stunned by this completely unwarranted, aggressive nastiness. I thought about retorting "I wouldn't want to buy them" because I had seen his web site and thought his work was tacky and that you couldn't pay me to wear his Sunset Boulevard garbage, but there was no point in making the party even more unpleasant, so I let it pass. But I certainly never forgot how weirdly, emotionally inappropriate Michael the ladies dress-maker was.

Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

In spite of that I was still shocked by what happened in April 2020. Since February, the creeps had only occasionally banged at me while I went about the normal business of living, when suddenly, on April 10, Michael had a complete melt-down. At around 4PM in the afternoon I was assembling some furniture in my living room. I gently placed a piece of wood on the floor. This caused Michael to start screaming and banging. I couldn't believe his over-reaction and I screamed back that he was over-sensitive to noise. So he came storming up the stairs and proceeded to stand outside my door screaming threats at me. Then he ran down the stairs and slammed the door to his own apartment.

My neighbor across the hall heard the whole thing and texted me to ask what happened. I still have that exchange:

It really was crazy. A little bit later I had an email exchange with Michael in which he admitted that my behavior had not changed but rather he had become more sensitive to it. 

The creeps in 1B continued to bang at me for the next months, although they were much quieter during the summer. I thought maybe the new large rugs I had bought for my living room and bedroom helped. So in spite of the loss of the elm tree, and the nastiness from 1B I thought I might stay in my apartment.

Then came the autumn and Michael came up with a new tactic - in addition to banging on his ceiling when I had the temerity to vacuum my living room rug at 4PM on a Sunday afternoon, he started to randomly bang loudly on his ceiling under my bed in the middle of the night,  or early in the morning,  which caused me to wake up and then I couldn't get back to sleep. I started to have insomnia and that started to impact my job.

So that tells you how petty and vindictive and emotionally unstable this man is - he would be mad at me for making noise in my apartment and then wait to retaliate in the middle of the night or in the early morning.

Finally I decided to catch him at it. I bought an app for my iPad that detects snoring, but it also detects other noises and I managed to record him doing this late-night/early morning banging twice. I sent Michael the recordings via Facebook Messenger. Here is one of our exchanges:

It took him a minute to remember to claim he had no idea what I was talking about. 

I then had an email exchange with Joe, who threatened me with his lawyer. I mentioned I had plenty of documentation of Michael's activities and asked Joe to send me his lawyer's contact information.

He never responded.

Now this unreasonable hatefulness from the two creeps in 1B would have been plenty to convince me it was time to get the hell out of Dodge, but the icing on the shit cake was that an outdoor workshop was set up in early autumn in the back of the apartment on 86th street across from my back-facing window. This plein-air atelier sometimes produced god-awful grinding noises in the middle of the day, while I was working from home in my apartment. So not only did I no longer have the tree, I had an industrial workshop to look at and hear.

You can see the apparently permanent shed they set up, in the photo below. Also please note the black dead ivy vines on the left. And the snow-covered stump of the murdered elm tree.

In early 2021 some people moved into the building next door and they like to have noisy parties until 4AM in the middle of the working week. And this was during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the creeps in 1B started to have indoor/outdoor parties, also during the pandemic. Once the pandemic is over, I shudder to think of the noise coming at my old apartment from three sides. I'm so glad I won't be there to hear it.

This is the view from my new apartment. That's the East River on the left. And those are lots of trees.