Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Filed under living in new york sucks so hard, no i really do love ohio

Last week’s New York magazine had the most interesting article about a co-housing community trying to plant roots in Brooklyn. The idea is that they’ll buy an abandoned factory or warehouse, fit it with something like 30 apartments, and include huge common areas where people can gather. They’ll make all decisions as a community, eat dinner together, keep their apartment doors open, and basically be family to each other in a city where people pride themselves on anonymity.

I love the idea. I’m now dying to be a part of it and would be in a second if I had the $500k for one of their apartments. I talk daily about how much I miss the way people say hello to everyone they pass in my hometown in Ohio, the way you have to respect and care for each other when you know each other’s fathers and brothers and were taught by each other’s grandmothers in elementary school. When you pass different people every day and your neighbor literally runs into his apartment to avoid having to exchange pleasantries with you, it’s much easier to feel separate and to be selfish and rude. Imagine how many fewer people I’d have to kick in the balls on the subway if we all knew each other personally and didn’t assume our problems were worse and ourselves more deserving of a comfortable spot on the train. It’d be like living in a college dorm room all over again, except with children and puppies.

Yet everyone else I’ve talked to seems to think this is a terrible idea. You?


  1. Tessa says:

    I am unconvinced by the shared guest rooms. Yeah, that‘ll work out well.

    • Hey, as it is now, I don’t have one at all, and it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I got an air mattress for my poor visitors, so even the chance for a guest room is exciting to me.

      I figured you’d be the most likely person to be into it, actually, hippie that you are.

      • Tessa says:

        I am a big ol’ gullible hippie, but I am also a very suspicious, cynical hippie.

        Maybe I’ve just become jaded by how little I’ve had in common with all of my neighbors, ever, and how little I would want more of them in my life. Not bad people, mind, but no… no.

  2. Julie says:

    I’d be in if there was a thorough background chck and applicatonn process. In fact, I’d want to be the most suspect person living there…everyone else should be a saint.

    • Good point, and one I of course didn’t think of, being from the farm and not from the big city like you. I just assume that anyone who wants to live in a community is caring and innocent, which is why I’d be the first one attacked while I slept.

  3. Cristy says:

    I think this is a fabulous idea! My family has talked a few times in our past about buying a communal home with plenty of room for everybody to have space (and occasional privacy – you gotta’ have some), so we could all support each other and be there for each other and nobody would have to do it “all” alone.

    I know that Tom and I would have a tough time sometimes because we’re hermits, but I think as long as there’s enough room to do your own thing every once in a while and there were ground rules about bedroom doors and such, it could be really cool.

    I’ve had roommates during my life, but I think the kind of thing you’re talking about would be so much better, because the attitude would be more “willing” rather than “have to.” I never got to do the dorm thing, but as you said, I’d imagine it’d be similar, and I think I’d love that. Kind of having a built-in support system to get through life’s stuff. Neat.

    • My dad and all of his family all live within a few minutes of each other, so I grew up with the sort of support system you’re talking about; maybe that’s why I’m so open to it.

      On one hand, it’d be even more fun to live with people you’re not related to, because then you get to meet their families and friends, but on the other hand, you’re more likely to be more invested in your own family.

      I really hope you do it! And that you blog constantly about how wonderful and enriching it is so it’ll catch on.

  4. Todd says:

    I actually saw a place out in Brooklyn that was already like this. It was WAY more hippie than this place, but same idea. Smaller individual apartments (so basically bedrooms) and lots of communal space. I think they only had one kitchen for the entire place and community dinner every night and all that.

    • “Saw it” meaning visited it when you were picking out a place for us? I wonder if I would’ve been ready for that when I first moved here. On one hand, it would’ve been a familiar continuation of college, but on the other hand, I was hungry for Manhattan glam and probably would’ve thought everyone there was ridiculous.

      The article talks about how all of the other communal living groups are hippies, so maybe this is a reaction to the other Brooklyn place.

  5. It’s a terrible idea for ME, because I am the Worst Roommate in the History of Roommates.

    But you probably guessed that already.

  6. thickcrust says:

    “It’d be like living in a college dorm room all over again, except with children and puppies.”

    Um… the 2 things probably least equipped to survive in a college dorm room.

    Being interested or intrigued by the idea, I can understand. But I can’t help thinking that the people who actually sign up for a living environment like this are the same people who join cults or vote for Ralph Nader.

  7. Steve-o says:

    A good idea for those of you who would want to sign up, a terrible idea for everybody else.

    How about this for an idea: Why don’t you, um, try talking to your actual, real neighbors right now?!?! Who knows, maybe they’re cool people, you just never bothered!

    Doesn’t matter where you live–most of your neighbors will be OK, some may be jerks, and one or two could be your new friends. The first step is introducing yourself.

    • Maybe you missed the part where I said “your neighbor literally runs into his apartment to avoid having to exchange pleasantries with you”. Your neighbor being my neighbor. Or Kamran’s neighbor, actually, because you know I don’t spend enough time at my apartment to give my neighbors a chance to recognize my face.

      That same neighbor was probably the one who called the front desk on Kamran at 11:30 the other night for playing his music too loud. Sweet guy.

  8. Kim says:

    No. I mean, to each her own. But hair literally raises on my arms at the thought of this. I’d end up killing someone’s child in .5 seconds and I wouldn’t even feel bad about it. Ewwww.