Ask any managing agent or real estate lawyer what apartment dwellers complain about most, and they will tell you neighbor noise--the kind produced by the neighbor's kids, contractors, subwoofers, weird exercise routines, etc.
Too often, one neighbor's grievance triggers another's defenses, culminating in a feud instead of a solution. But selling, suing or suffering aren't the only options: There is also third-party diplomacy offered by a non-profit mediation service.
The Safe Horizon Mediation Centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn are two community alternative dispute resolution programs that have mediated thousands of neighbor-on-neighbor disputes. More than a quarter involve noise, but the peacemakers at Safe Horizon have resolved everything from harassment complaints, to issues around pets, to co-op boards paralyzed by personality and communication issues.
Here is how it works: You or any interested party (like a board member or managing agent) contacts the mediation center in your borough. A case manager reaches out by phone or letter to the parties in conflict to arrange a meeting, which could last for 30 minutes to two hours. About 60 to 80 percent of conflicts reach some sort of resolution then. Everything is confidential and free.
“One of our really driving values is self-determination,” said Elena Bayrock, the director of the Safe Horizon Manhattan Mediation Center. “Our mediators are highly trained to be able to facilitate the process without prescribing a solution. They help explore what is going to work for you.”
What kind of neighbor problems do you have? Would you consider getting help from a mediator?