Loathe Thy Neighbor
Good fences make good neighbors
-Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”
One of the biggest learning curves for me after moving to New York City was getting acclimatized to having a lot less space. When people are stacked chock -a -block (as they are here) concepts such as “personal space” and “privacy” become a much more relative thing. In fact, I have occasionally amazed myself with what I have managed to tune out, e.g.; street noise, music, noisy neighbors, a PILE DRIVER, etc.
People are, contrary to popular belief, a pretty tolerant lot here. That said, when the reach the breaking point things can get interesting. Anyone who has lived in New York City must (in my opinion) have a rite of passage called the noisy neighbor. You know; some cretin who is either unwilling or unable to understand what impact his (or her) actions have on others and persists in making ungodly amounts of noise (usually at ungodly hours of the night). Many try to entreat these people by employing reason. Sometimes this works.
Usually it doesn’t.
Of course, if one is willing to get his hands dirty redress can be had, as in this case of today’s tale pf Greenpoint hooliganism from the October 13, 1902 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The issue at hand: a fence. Enjoy!
FAMILY FEUD IN COURT;
A GATE CHOPPED DOWN.
Sequel to Wright-Jackson and Jackson-Wright Complaints to Health Board
A COP VS. A REAL ESTATE MAN
Latter Comes Out Ahead in the First Round Before Magistrate— No Proof to Convict Chopper
The cause of it was a plain, long, high, unpainted gate. The gate isn’t to blame, but it has divided two families, caused a great deal of trouble and finally involved the principals in court proceedings. As is usual in such cases the sacrificial offering was an innocent victim of circumstances. He didn’t know and of course didn’t understand.
Patrolman Charles Jackson of the Greenpoint Avenue Station lives in 160 Calyer Street. Next door, in 162, is the home of George Wright, a well known real estate dealer. In his employ is Thomas Sharp, a laborer. In the side of Jackson’s house is a gate, which swings into the alley, and, incidentally, strikes against the house of Wright.
For two years this gate has been the primary cause of the friction between the families, The Wrights didn’t like to hear the banging of the gate against their house. Little things tell and the bangety-bang so worked upon the nerves of the Wrights that finally the friendship between the families turned into enmity.
Wright fumed and Jackson defied. Jackson determined to get even. Wright has two bantam roosters. They know how to crow at the most unreasonable hours. Mr. Jackson, or somebody else, sent word to the Board of Health that the crowing disturbed the slumber of the neighborhood.
The war was on. Mr. Wright, or somebody else, then complained to the Board of Health that Jackson’s yard was in unsanitary condition and that he should be compelled to have it drained. On the day this complaint was made Mrs. Wright became ill. Her illness was attributed to the constant banging of the Jackson gate.
Wright, in wrath, again complained to the Board of Health. The next day Jackson, or possibly someone else, complained to the Boards about the condition of Wright’s yard. It was in unsanitary condition, it was alleged, and threatened the health and happiness of the neighborhood.
Hearing of this Wright got “mad clear through” and when an inspector from the Board informed him that his yard should be drained in compliance with the law, the real estate dealer said that he was in financial straits and couldn’t afford to have the work done.
“Why don;t you look after Jackson’s yard,” said Wright.
The inspector told Wright that Jackson’s yard was all right.
When Jackson heard that Wright had talked about his yard the pot of his temper boiled over and the Wrights say that subsequently the gate was banged with greater force than ever. Wright became furious. Mrs. Wright and her family talked about nothing else but that gate and Wright may be pardoned if the constant reiteration caused him to forget the virtue of patience. There was a family council. In anger Wright declared to his admiring family that he would end it all and forever. Alas, poor Sharp! Wright, Jackson claims, got his laborer to chop down the gate. He did, but for the time being, at least, that was the undoing of Sharp. Jackson, in a rage, had Sharp arrested.
Before Magistrate O’Reilly in the Manhattan Avenue police court this morning Sharp was arraigned. The Wrights and the Jacksons were there. They glared and glared, but the justice was calm. Nobody had seen Sharp chopping down the gate. Sharp grinned. Wright looked elated. Jackson frowned. Sharp was discharged and the Magistrate told Jackson that he should not have had Sharp arrested. With a merry ha-ha the Wrights, followed by faithful Sharp, left the court room.
Jackson and his friends marched out as if there were in the wake of a hearse— but the end is not yet. The Wrights and the Jacksons still live in adjoining houses and new gates are easily constructed.
You know, this story reminds me of the lovely Pre-Perestroika fence Magic Johnson’s crew erected on my block earlier this year. A fence that was, not surprisingly, built without a permit. I hate this fence. What’s more, I hate the fucking surveillance cameras mounted atop it. I have quietly wished someone would destroy those things for months.
Thankfully, I did not have to lift a finger. Magic Johnson’s crew did all the work themselves.
My husband and I noticed that something, uh, happened when were walking down the block a couple of weeks ago. I noticed a couple staring at the destruction and struck up a conversation with them.
Me: Yeah, Magic’s crew managed to knock out their own cameras and electricity.
Man: I know, I helped wire the lighting. I was pretty bummed out when that happened.
I smiled and proceeded down the street.
The cameras have since been re-wired. Last week I called the 311 to report that 110 Green was doing after-hours work without a permit. Again.
The bleak goes on.