by Mary Jane Wilkie

image1If you lived in a house and someone were on your front porch, you would expect an explanation, for no one should be there without a valid reason. The hallways of our buildings are our front porch, and we are entitled and even have an obligation to know why anyone is there. Acceptance of that responsibility is one of the most effective ways of ensuring the safety of our community.

But how do you approach a stranger in the hallway? With friendliness. “Hi, I don’t think I’ve met you. I’m xxx, and I live on the third floor. Where do you live?” Or, “May I help you find an apartment? What apartment are you looking for?” If they need help, they’ll be grateful. If they don’t, they’ll at least know that people are friendly. If they have no business being there, they’ll know that they can’t walk around unchallenged.

You can use these friendly openings in the hallways, as well as at the street door when your arrival coincides with the arrival of a stranger. Do not feel self-conscious or defensive about asking why someone is in the building, or is attempting to enter. If a visitor is waiting when I arrive, I usually wait until the resident buzzes to allow entry. I may ask what apartment he or she is looking for, and offer to show them the way. If you are not accustomed to approaching people this way, know that with a little practice, you can become comfortable and proficient.

In the laundry, I make a point of introducing myself to fellow residents. Any pretext for conversation will serve: “All these clothes! Sometimes I think we should be nudists!” From there, you can introduce yourself, and segue into something like “Did you see the article on the Fort Tryon website?” We all benefit from engaging with one another, and most people are open to a little initiative from a neighbor.

Several recent Facebook posts mention package theft, so let’s review that unpleasant possibility. My immediate neighbors and I regularly retrieve packages for one another. If you see a package in front of a neighbor’s door, take it into your apartment and leave a note on their door. When the neighbor knocks, you can clarify: “If you would prefer that I not pick up your packages, just say so.” Most residents will be happy about your action, and it’s a good way to meet a neighbor.

I once encountered a young man waiting to enter my building through the street door. I asked which apartment he wanted, and he replied that he was just waiting for any unit to respond, because he was “doing a promotion.” I didn’t immediately know what he meant, but then realized that he was one of those who slip fliers under doors and wedge them into door spaces. I ordered him off the premises, and he scrambled to get away (knowing that I was watching him). Exerting even a low level of authority works wonders, so practice doing it.