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November 2005


By Manuel Cabrero

Townhouse living is a mixed experience of independence and isolation. Detached from the IPN community, the sixty-nine townhouse units, which range in size from studios to 4 bedrooms, are dispersed over the two plazas, the walkway facing BMCC, the area behind the federal row houses on Harrison St., and along the two blocks of Greenwich Street from Duane to N. Moore.

This large area makes it difficult for residents to meet and greet one another as tower residents do in their lobbies and elevators. As someone who has lived both in a tower and in a townhouse, I have a perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of both and want to share my perspective with those of you who don’t know townhouse life.

Our unique living arrangement means that townhouse tenants face different security issues from those faced by tenants in the towers. Unlike the towers, townhouse units don’t have one entry point with a security guard to watch who comes and goes or to announce visitors. Therefore issues of lighting, cameras, and roving guards are primary concerns to us.

The plazas, although private property, are used by the public, sometimes for illicit activities like walking dogs, drug transactions, game playing and loitering. The south plaza also houses PS 150, and doubles as the schoolyard.

Because our front doors and terraces are accessible to all, we need a vigilant security force, camera monitoring, and common area lighting. Currently, all three are inadequate for the proper safety of residents.

We have been lucky thus far that more incidents have not occurred. We have applauded the increased staffing of common areas on special days, like Halloween and July 4, but most of the time the understaffed security force is not visible enough to meet the special needs of the townhouses.

Maintenance issues also differ for townhouses. Currently, we are in the middle of the reconstruction of the north plaza, a disruption that, at times, has limited residents’ easy access to their units, right to clean surroundings, and peace and quiet during parts of the day and weekends. At this time, management has said that construction is likely to continue through the summer of 2006. Other maintenance issues have to do with planters, irrigation systems, garbage pick-up, snow clearing, access stair cleanup, access to tower laundry rooms, wheel chair access, low water pressure, and intruding squirrels and rodents--issues that most tower residents don’t face.

Additionally, the doors that access the towers from the plazas have locks that are in ill repair or are often left ajar—a problem that compromises the safety of all.

Some tower residents may perceive townhouse residents as not being part of the IPN community, and even among ourselves, it is difficult to communicate because we are so dispersed. Our two “Townhouse Captains” can’t meet their neighbors in the lobby and elevators, so we rely on e-mail and flyers in our mail slots for staying in touch.

Despite our separateness, we are part of the IPN community, and, although the minority portion of the total population of IPN, the “townhousers” are proportionately high in IPN membership, are good neighbors and look out for one another. Many have been in their units for many years and have raised children and grandchildren here. We take pride in living in our homes and pride in our community. (Building Service Committee reports increased uniformed presence at these doors between 4 PM and 8 AM., and has been told by management many lighting deficiencies had been resolved.)

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