The pros and cons of apartment living


1. You get a doorman. He says ‘Hello’ to you every time you come in the building and will go out in the street and whistle down a cab if you need one. And you can strike up a conversation with them and they can’t get away. When you’re new to a city and don’t know anyone that can mean a lot.

2. You get a ‘super’. Your ‘super’ (short for superman) is the person who keeps your home running smoothly. Blocked toilet? Circuit fused? Leak? I can personally guarantee that your ‘super’ will fix them all – as our’s has.

3. You get a handyman… yeah, yeah… you get the picture.

4. Usually, it’s all on one floor, making for lovely, free-flowing lateral living.

5. You have neighbours but you can’t hear them – especially in a prewar. Prewar apartments were built by mainly Irish labourers who, to extend the job, built the apartments to the highest of standards. There are a couple of feet of solid space between the ceiling of one apartment and the floor of the one above. Even if the apartment next door is being renovated you barely hear a thud. Also, the best architects designed clever layouts that limit the number of linking walls.

Mail goes in here…

and is picked up by someone from the lobby here…


6. If you’re really lucky you get one of these (left):





7. When people come to visit you they must be ‘announced’ by your doorman. It’s very self-aggrandising which, if you’re so inclined, is a good feeling.

8. Home contents insurance is much cheaper due to 24-hr doormen and ubiquitous CCTV cameras. Our’s is a fifth of what is was in London.

9. Also due to the above, you feel very safe and secure.

10. And doormen act as sort of neighbourhood watchmen, keeping the whole neighbourhood safer. And the sidewalks cleaner. And they decorate the building at Hallowe’en and Christmas. Aaaaw!

11. You put your rubbish into bins outside your back door and it miraculously disappears.

12. Fellow neighbours are a great source of dog-walkers, cleaners etc

13. You can see into lots of other people’s apartments at night.

14, Often your heating will be included in the rental or maintenance charges.


Upper West Side apartment buildings

1. A sizeable proportion of your rent or maintenance charges will go to paying for the services of a doorman, ‘super’, handyman… You may decide you would prefer to open the door for yourself. And say hello to yourself.

2. Your doormen might be surly buggers.

3. Come Christmas, tipping all the staff could bankrupt you.

4. Unless you have a LOT of money, your apartment will be ‘compact’.

5. It’s rare to find an apartment with outside space.

6. They’re not good if you’re a loner – you have a LOT of neighbours, most of whom will talk to you in the lift.

7. Even if your apartment is spotless, a filthy tenant above you could be providing a breeding ground for the cockroaches that pay you a visit.

8. There’s not a lot of privacy. It’s likely that the windows of your apartment will be looking straight into the windows of another apartment.

9. The heating is centrally controlled, so you can be sweating buckets inside while it’s like the arctic outside.

9. If there’s a storm like Hurricane Sandy you feel very guilty that your doorman is down in the lobby with the wind whistling in while you’re cosy upstairs watching it on TV.

7 Responses to “The pros and cons of apartment living”

  1. Hi, Elaine, I have been following your blogs with enormous interest. Have you thought of turning them into a book. They are great!! Have you got a lot of snow? Love to Joel, Floppy, Josie We are looking forward to seeing Jon on Saturday. Daniels house is almost ready to move in, and the old one will be completed on re the new owner in 2 weeks. Love Paula


    • Hi Paula. Thank-you for the kind words and it’s good to hear from you. No snow now – that was a one-night thing. Great news re Daniel. Do send him and everyone best wishes for the move. Love to you and David. Elaine x

  2. Now that I don’t have a husband I need a ‘super’. To make myself clear, this would be for DIY tasks only, not other husbandly stuff, unless the ‘super’ was super in every way.

    A doorman would be good too. I’ve always wanted a doorman since watching Rhoda, although perhaps Carlton the doorman wasn’t the best example of NY doormen. I’d have any sort of doorman, even a drunk one.

    Everything on your list makes me want to leave Highgate and live in Manhattan. Of course some people actually do it, whilst others just bang away furiously on their keyboard moaning about the rubbish not being collected.

    I may have to move anyway. I was stranded in the street at 8am this morning in a pink furry dressing gown, furry bootie slippers and tartan PJs trying to direct the fridge repair man to my house through the school traffic. The headmaster looked me up and down and the snooty women in their Porsche Cayennes stared at me as if I was an exhibit in a zoo. I wanted to flash them as revenge, but there were too many layers to peel off and it was too cold, plus the combo of the cold and a small chest wouldn’t have made much of an impact. Had I had your ‘super’ I wouldn’t have needed to behave so sluttishly; I would have just rung him and said, “My hinges have gone. Please come up.” And even if I had to get in outside help because my needs were beyond the experience of my ‘super’, my doorman would have done all the directing.

    You are missed.

    Helen & Boris xx

    • Great to hear from you Helen (and Boris). Come over! You’d be amazed how easy it is to make the move once you start the ball rolling (although it’s not inexpensive). I’m glad to hear you’re civilising Highgate by scandalising the Porsche Cayenne drivers. And yes, once you’ve got a ‘super’ they seem pretty well indispensable (I’m taking ours’ on holiday with us). Much love, Elaine xx

  3. What an experience you are having! Is this a permanent thing or will you be returning to Blighty one day? Was a bit crestfallen when I realised this was the most recent post, your writing makes the reader feel like they are there too! Looking forward to your next one

    • Thanks Alison for your very nice comment. I think we will be here for a few years at least so there will be lots more posts. I love London too but I’m enjoying this adventure while it lasts. Thanks again. Elaine

  4. Love reading about your adventures on the edge of America. Glad all is well,. Buddy, Peggy & Maggie.

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