By Ronda Kaysen
Q. I moved into a rental in Murray Hill last November. Unbeknown to me, there is a baby next door who shares a wall with my apartment. I understand that new parents deal with crying babies, but it seems like these parents have decided to let the baby “cry it out,” and don’t try to make the baby stop. The baby cries a lot in the morning and at night when I’m trying to sleep. If I had known about this, I would never have rented the apartment. Is there any action I can take?
A. As unpleasant as the sound of a baby crying is for you, I can almost guarantee you that it is worse for the exhausted parents. And unlike with a misbehaving child, a parent cannot simply order a baby to stop crying.
You mention that you would never have rented the apartment had you known an infant lived next door. But the thing about babies is, they tend to just show up. You could live next to a childless couple for years, and then one day they may go and have a child.
So what can you do? Your landlord is not allowed to discriminate against families with children, so your complaints may fall on deaf ears. (Your real estate broker, by the way, would not have been allowed to warn you about children in the building, as doing so would have violated fair housing laws.) You could ask the landlord to help pay to soundproof your apartment, but he might balk at the suggestion, and it might not muffle the noise anyway. If you were to sue for noise violations, you would probably go home empty-handed. “Courts are traditionally hostile to noise complaints arising in metropolitan areas,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer.
Instead, befriend the new family. Knock on their door with a plate of cookies in hand — or, better yet, a bottle of wine. Introduce yourself and maybe even tell them that they have a cute baby (parents love that stuff). Then ask if they could move the crib to another room or at least to an interior wall, explaining that the walls are thin and the nights are long.
The new parents may appreciate the treats, and sympathize with your misery. Eventually, the baby will do what all babies do: stop being a baby and go to sleep.