Creating Community It Takes a Village

While high-rise residential buildings put many people and families in very close proximity to one another, living side-by-side doesn’t automatically turn a group of people into a community—sometimes it even has the opposite effect. 

Lives are busy and schedules are hectic, and the last thing many people want to do when they’re at home is to go socialize with their neighbors. Building a sense of community in a building or HOA is valuable, however, it creates a network of communication and support among building residents, and ultimately improves the quality of life within the building community. Let’s take a look at the delicate balance between privacy and community.

Urban Sanctuaries 

There are something like eight and a half million people living in New York, an area of about 305 square miles. According to the 2014 census, the Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of over 20 million people, making the Big Apple by far the most densely populated place in the United States. With all those people piled on top of one another—literally, in the case of co-op and condo buildings—New Yorkers tend to regard their apartment units as sanctuaries from the tumult of urban life—a thousand or so square feet of precious space that insulates them from their 8,500,000 fellow citizens. What this means is that residents in city apartments, unlike others in the suburbs or exurbs, are less likely to depend on their neighbors as a social outlet.

“The typical New Yorker helps a neighbor in distress, but otherwise leaves them alone,” says Enid Hamelin of Bernstein Real Estate, a longtime board member in her building. This sort of baseline helpfulness could be seen in the city after 9/11, the electrical blackout of 2003, and Superstorm Sandy. “Most people don’t see one another on a social basis until the annual meeting or holiday party,” says Hamelin. “There’s no need to engage.”

David J. Amster, the president of Prime Locations Inc. in Yonkers, has also seen this happen. “It’s complacency—resident complacency,” he says. “People don’t want to be involved in the building.”

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