Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Jan 24, 2011

Nuisance Neighbors Give Public Housing a Bad Name

by Rosemary Reeves

Most everyone is familiar with the tales of crime and mayhem in housing projects.  Much of that has been exaggerated in the media.  But some of it is real.  There are people in and from the projects that can actually ruin a neighborhood.  They have made their public housing neighbors miserable for years.  Now, housing projects are being demolished in favor of mixed-income neighborhoods with strict rules for who gets in.  However, most of the former public housing residents will receive vouchers instead that pay a portion of their rent.  That means the bad folks, along with the good folks, are coming to your block.
Remember, the first rule for having good neighbors is to be a good neighbor yourself.  Don’t look down on somebody just because they’re from the projects or use housing vouchers.  Believe me, your snobbery will become greatly apparent and this creates tension between you.  You don’t want to be the cause of friction between neighbors because of your prejudice.  It will only backfire on you.
If you do have a nuisance neighbor, or even worse, a nightmare neighbor, here are some things you can do:
 Is There Anything You’re Doing to Contribute to the Problem?  Your nuisance neighbor makes you angry.  When they play their loud music or otherwise make your life miserable, you tend to have a knee-jerk reaction.  You want to retaliate.  They bring you misery, so you dream up ways to bring misery to them.  Stop and think before acting.  An eye for an eye only escalates a bad situation and before you know it, the war you have with your neighbor is running your life.
Choose Your Battles.  If your neighbor likes to play loud music every Saturday afternoon, plan to leave the house at that time.  Take a walk in the park, go to the movies, play a sport, or visit a relative.  By doing so, they may have done you a favor.  You’ve had a good time instead of being bored and cooped up in the house watching television. 
Think Simple.  Ask yourself, what is the easiest way to take care of the problem?  I once lived in a row house where a group of young men decided to make my front steps their hangout.  Instead of calling the police, I placed the stereo near the open window and played Barbara Streisand songs.  It was like acid to their ears.  They were gone within minutes and never came back. (When attempting this trick, say nothing to them and try not to be obvious.  Play the old geezer music at a reasonable volume so it does not appear to be retaliation on your part.  Apologies to Barbara Streisand).
Be Polite To Your Nuisance Neighbor.  Even if you can’t stand them, smile and say hello, then keep walking.  This gives the message that you are friendly, but a somewhat private person.  This is exactly what you want to convey to nuisance neighbors.  Don’t think of it as being two-faced.  It is actually stealth, a strategy used in times of war to fool the enemy into becoming complacent.  While you discreetly work on your plan of action, they will not suspect you of anything.
If You Must Call the Police, Do So Anonymously.  You do not have to give your name or address when calling the police about a neighbor’s loud music, domestic dispute or anything else, unless you are a witness to some terrible crime.  Give them the neighbor’s address instead.  That way, the police will not show up at your door for everyone to see that you were responsible for their arrival on the scene.  Later on, if the nuisance neighbor asks whether you were the caller, say no.  It’s none of their business and the nuisance neighbor will be unsure and confused.  They can’t retaliate against you if they are uncertain that you’re the one.
Write Everything Down.  Buy a notebook used solely for the purpose of recording all of your nuisance neighbor’s infractions.  Of course, don’t spy on them and don’t be a stalker.  But if they’re deliberately trespassing on your property, creating a domestic disturbance, or committing any kind of crime, record the time and date in your notebook along with the names of the perpetrators.  Also write down the names and contact information for any person in authority from whom you sought help, the time and date, how long it took them to respond and the outcome.  Should your trouble with the nuisance neighbor ever come to court, your detailed records will greatly enhance your credibility with the police, the judge, and the court system.
Call City Hall and Request Video Cameras Be Placed On Your Street.  If you’ve got crime on your block, you can ask for video cameras to be installed so the perpetrators can be caught on film and prosecuted.
If the housing authority won’t do anything about it, call the Guardian AngelsSome people call them vigilantes and some call them heroes, but they are always willing to help when it comes to neighborhood crime.  Tell them exactly what’s going on and ask them for their support.  At the very least, they can offer some helpful alternative advice.  They may even mediate between you and the housing authority or police.  At best, they’ll actually come to your neighborhood and patrol it.
When All Else Fails, Contact the Press.  When you’ve tried calling the police or the local housing authority to complain about neighbors who are ruining your neighborhood and there is little they can or will do to help, try contacting a reporter from your local newspaper, radio or television station.  Nothing gets the attention of authorities quicker than when their incompetence or inaction makes the news.  Make sure your neighborhood story is newsworthy before you call.  Is there crime on your street?  Here’s where the careful records in your notebook really come in handy.  You’ll be able to give times and dates, and detailed accounts of your conversations with authorities you’ve contacted.  If you appear on television, they can put your face in shadow and disguise your voice so the criminals don’t know it was you.
Remember to reserve your judgment.  Most people from housing projects are good, law-abiding people and they don't deserve to be misjudged.  But just in case you're unlucky enough to have a nuisance neighbor move in, no matter where they come from, this advice may help.

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