Saturday, February 21, 2009

Screaming Children In Upper East Side Apartment Hallways: What's Appropriate?

Last night I came home after taking out a client downtown. It was Friday and I was ready to flop onto my couch before heading off to the movies.

The elevator doors opened onto the 10th floor, where I live, and 10 very small children, all under the age of 5 and many in footsie pajames, were running around and playing in the halls. One kid was on a small scooter. The parents were milling around, having a coffee klatch. "Welcome to chaos!" one mother said to me as I sauntered by. This is not the first time I have been greeted by this scene.

I understand that living on the Upper East Side comes with this sort hazard. My building is in the P.S. 6 school district, so it's crawling with kids, as well as some very exotic dogs. I also know that my building is very clean, and has wide, well-lit, carpeted hallways that are perfect for afternoon games of dodgeball.

I also know that a basic tenet of renting in New York City is that one is entitled to what is called "quiet enjoyment." This is Leasing 101, and I deal with it all the time. It's a big reason why some luxury buildings don't allow pianos.

How does one handle a gaggle of screaming children, and their parents, who have mistaken the common areas as a playground? I understand small children need to let off steam, but in less than four months I'm going to have a newborn, and loud kids and my sleeping bean are not going to mix. Anyone who's been on the receiving end of one of my tongue lashings have retreated with slightly less self esteem, but I hate to go negative.

I was raised by a Russian mother who didn't allow us to run around screaming like banshees, and this was in a house in the suburbs, where the neighbors probably couldn't hear us anyway. Is it wrong to tell parents these days to muzzle their kids, or at least take them to a park? What's the protocol in this age of Time Outs and I'm OK You're OK?

Epilogue: I sorted through the mail, put my coat back on and headed down to Murray Hill for my movie. In the elevator back to the lobby, the door opened on the 7th floor. There, a school-aged girl was riding her bike in the hall (with a helmet!) while her toddler sister and a free-roaming Akita dog chased after her. The mother leaned against a wall, flipping through a magazine.