Q: I have lived on the first floor of a midsize Brooklyn co-op since 2016. I now spend more time at home, and the constant chitchat in the lobby is aggravating. These conversations distract me as I work, do yoga or watch television. My next-door neighbor is one of the culprits, regularly talking with neighbors right outside my door, sometimes late in the evening. I realize this comes with the territory of living on the first floor, and I don’t want to be the grumpy neighbor. But I also want peace. What can I do?
A: The city regulates noise, but it has to be “excessive and unreasonable” to be considered a violation, and people speaking in normal voices in a lobby does not rise to that level. It’s understandable why the constant chatter could be annoying, though, and you may be able to persuade your co-op board or management or your neighbor to be more considerate.
Write a note to the board explaining that while you understand that people talk in lobbies, the sound is traveling to your apartment and is distracting. If conversations happen late at night, include that too, as you are entitled to a reasonable measure of peace and quiet.
“Letting the board know is important because, for one, they may not know,” said Leni Morrison Cummins, a real estate lawyer in the Manhattan office of the law firm Cozen O’Connor. “They may not have any clue that this is disturbing.”
The building should circulate a letter to residents, asking them to mind their voices in common areas. Management could also post signs in the lobby, and the doormen could remind residents to keep it down.
You could also talk to that one neighbor about the frequent chatting outside your door. But tread carefully — you might exacerbate the situation if you end up in an argument.
“Confrontation is something that can work,” said Lizzie Post, a co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition.” “How you do it makes a really big difference.”
Ms. Post suggests writing out what you plan to say and running it by some trusted friends or relatives for feedback.
Another option: Put a sign on your door reminding people to keep their voices down — though that strategy would also require some finesse. “It’s passive aggressive, right?” said Ms. Post, who suggested using humor in the sign to lighten the mood. “Sometimes passive aggressiveness isn’t a bad thing. It can be the way of not really engaging but engaging.”
Next, take a look around your apartment. Are there things you can do to lessen the disturbance? Perhaps you could hang a tapestry on the wall to absorb sound. Noise-canceling headphones, a noise machine or music might also help.
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