8 Million Stories: Kelly Mullins Learns What Good Neighbors Are Made Of

Written by NYPress on . Posted in 8 Million Stories, Dwell OTDT, Opinion and Column, Our Town Downtown.


By Kelly Mullins

As a 20-year-old college student from a Boston suburb, I knew I had hit the jackpot, living alone for the summer in a recently renovated Upper West Side apartment that had just been purchased by a friend’s parents. For them, it was an opportune investment in the bad housing market. For me, it was a sweet deal with a one-year lease that aligned perfectly with my final semesters of school.

The two-bedroom condo was nestled right near the park on the first floor of a brownstone. In contrast to the cigarette and mildew musk that had wafted through my previous downtown abode, it had that squeaky-clean aroma of a new home. The sun gleamed through the big windows and reflected off of the shiny hardwood floors. I felt precariously mature with my private laundry, dishwasher and wrap-around patio.

Everyone else residing in the building was an owner. I could sense their disapproval of this undeserving undergrad intruding on the premises in their chastising stares and standoffish hellos in the foyer. It all covered up their trepidation, however, that I would turn their sedate uptown adult home into a frat house.

My friends had, in fact, been begging me to throw a party. As the oldest of three girls in an Irish Catholic family (always the example-setter, never the rule-breaker) I wasn’t about to chance pissing off my new neighbors.

My bleeding heart got the best of me, though—I couldn’t take the puppy eyes from my peers every time we packed into a Bushwick studio or stood in some ridiculous line outside a trendy club in the Meatpacking District. Finally, I bought some beer and created a Facebook event: “Let’s Get Trashed in My Gigantic Apartment, Wooo!”

By 11 o’clock, it was looking like a casual soiree. As we discussed it-bags and blowouts (most of the attendees were friends I had made at a fashion internship) the doorbell rang—a girl’s boyfriend from Hoboken was apparently bringing along a few buddies.

Opening my door was like emptying out a clown car of bros, all of whom looked like they had significant experience navigating a beer pong table. My party went from civilized fête to all-out rager.

The uninvited Jersey Shore extras took over my laptop and turned up the house music. Most of us migrated out to the patio, so I left the front door unlocked in case more guests arrived.

Back inside, the new floor was brown with dirt from people traipsing back and forth, and the granite countertop littered with empty shot glasses and beer cans. There was also a strange man standing in the middle of my kitchen. He was tall, about 45, and sported glasses, gym shorts and a very aggravated scowl.

He pointed his finger at me. “Do you live here?” I nodded and he ushered me into the living room to talk.

“I’m the landlord. I’m responsible for all of this. Do you know how much noise you’re making?” he asked as he waved his arms up and down.

I had never been introduced to any sort of landlord. I began apologizing profusely for my irresponsibility. No matter how much I groveled through my drunken haze, his questions and threats continued to pour out.

“What is your name?” I was so nervous I didn’t think to ask his.

“Where are the other tenants?” He seemed to suspect I was hiding them somewhere. “They’re home in Boston for the summer.” I answered.

“Do you want to be evicted?” Oh god no, where would I live? Brooklyn?

“I’ve received noise complaints from all of the other neighbors.”

“Sir, it will never, ever happen again, I’m not usually like this. I beg you!”

“I’m going to call the cops if this doesn’t stop in five minutes. We’re telling your parents about this tomorrow.” He slammed the door in my face. I had never had a conversation with someone so enraged and unforgiving.

I frantically told everyone they had to leave. A frat boy tried to console me, but this wasn’t Phi Kappa Delta. This was the Taj Mahal of New York City apartments—at least for a kid in her twenties. I wasn’t going to let it go that easily for some laid-back-affair-turned ripper with a bunch of strangers.

The next morning I sterilized everything, waiting in suspense for Mr. Landlord to come and hand me my eviction notice. He didn’t show up. I expected him to come by the next day, and the day after that. I never saw or heard from him again.

When my two roommates came back at the end of August, I told them what had happened. We concluded that it made no sense for the building to have a landlord; everyone living there was an owner. I probably should have put that together much earlier and saved my naïve self a lot of anxiety, but fear had hindered my ability to think rationally.

I described the man to them and their eyes widened. He sounded like the guy from the apartment down the hall. They had an awkward exchange the day before, where it was made apparent that he didn’t approve of the twentysomethings living 10 feet away from his perfect Pottery Barn split-level. After some strategic Google searching, we confirmed that it was our guy.

Two days later, the building manager called to warn us of a certain man living next door with a drinking problem. If he ever threatened us, we were to lock our doors and call the police right away. Evidently, there had been other incidents.

A week after that, we were having trouble with the hot water. The doorbell rang. Standing in the hallway was the landlord imposter. I froze. Was he finally here to finish what he had started? It immediately became clear that he didn’t remember our previous interaction—either that or he was trying to brush it off like nothing had ever happened. All cheery grins, he asked, “Do you happen to be having problems with your hot water, too?”

Swallowing my pride, I nodded and smiled back.

Still living in the same apartment almost an entire year later, the neighbor and I have only crossed paths on a handful of occasions. Every time we do, however, I can’t help but wonder which of us was more wasted that night.

Kelly Mullins is a writer and recent graduate of Parsons the New School for Design. She still lives on the Upper West Side but has yet to throw another party. Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellmullins or read more of her work at kellmullins.com.

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