clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Two neighbors sit casually at a small round outdoor table. One of the figures, a young Black man, talks animatedly while the other neighbor, a young white woman with long blonde hair, enjoys a canned drink. The scene is framed in a speech bubble and behind it is a pattern of quotation marks. Illustration. Illustration by Mary Kate McDevitt

Filed under:

What It’s Like to Be a Neighbor Right Now

Open-window piano concerts and a 100-person WhatsApp group.

Weeks ago, when most of us had settled into quarantine life, Curbed put out a call for stories about you and your neighbors from the past few months. We wanted to know: Has spending more time walking around your neighborhood changed your relationship? What have you learned about your neighbors, and how have your interactions influenced your experience under quarantine? Here, five of our favorite anecdotes.

“One of my neighbors owns a coffee roastery and started making coffee for everyone in our seven-unit building on Saturday mornings. It’s helped us get to know each other and chat about how we’re holding up in the pandemic. Also, I’ve been ordering their coffee wholesale now to help with their business.”

—Larissa, Los Angeles, California

“I have a garage workshop on my street and I work on bikes a lot, and several times a day a pedestrian or cyclist will ask for advice or socially distant help. I’ve given away a gel seat cover, a few brake pads, replaced someone’s bottom-bracket bolt, and things like that, which just didn’t happen much before. There are easily more bikes passing by in a given day than cars, and it is quieter. I’m also meeting neighbors from a few blocks away that I didn’t know before — and I’ve lived here for five years.”

—Michael, San Jose, California

“I live in a large residential building that opened in June 2019. The building is still not completely full, and it’s the first large building in this neighborhood, so there’s probably more sense of community as a result. Our building has a WhatsApp group with around 100 of us, and it has been a lifeline throughout the pandemic.

I have traded ramen for toilet paper, and chocolate for a used vacuum cleaner. It also lets us all compare what kind of rent deals are being offered to us by management to make sure no one is being screwed over (which has happened). The group includes a really smart lawyer who weighs in on our leases; a florist who makes incredible bouquets and can drop them off at our door; a photographer who posts drone videos of the outside world; a sommelier who advises on wine pairings if we ask.”

—Claudia, Wynwood, Miami

“We live in a little pondside neighborhood outside of Boston, and it’s a small, isolated pocket. People don’t interact a lot. Our neighbor, a retired middle-school music teacher and a piano tuner, started having ‘open window’ piano concerts once everything shut down. This week is concert number eight, or is it number nine? He plays show tunes, old favorites, his kids call in with requests, and we stand around outside, well apart and masked, and applaud and dance. He always ends with ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ and ‘God Bless America.’ Everyone makes a point to go — it’s the highlight of our week! There’s a little sign outside his house advertising each concert with the date and time.”

—Lisa, Morses Pond, Wellesley, Massachusetts

“When the crisis hit locally, the nonprofit I work for, LA Más, pivoted our focus to provide immediate assistance to neighbors directly impacted by the crisis. Honestly, prior to the quarantine, the center of my conversations with any neighbors have been about my grapefruit tree. I pick and drop off grapefruits to anyone interested in them, but my effort to really get to know neighbors has been subtle. In my work, I’ve had the opportunity to work on community-serving projects, but never in my own neighborhood. I’ve met more of my neighbors in two weeks than I have in two years of living here. I deeply value the meaningful connections I’ve made with neighbors through this effort.”

—Chaz, Los Angeles, California