I live in a studio apartment in Manhattan, and enjoy my peace and quiet. My new neighbor is a young family, and they have two small toddlers. They’re all very nice, but the toddlers are a terror! They scream and cry constantly, and I always hear them playing loud music and games, running around their living room making a racket at all hours. What can I do?
This is a tough situation, because you need to balance having a civil relationship with your new neighbors with your understandable desire for peace and quiet. People have a right to have children, and children, of course, will cry and occasionally make noise. Parents can do only so much to control their young children.
That said, you certainly have a right to have reasonable peace and enjoyment of your apartment. A kind neighbor would approach you first, apologize for their children, and enter into a conversation. If they do not, you might take the first step and try to engage in a conversation.
Under no circumstances should you try to speak with your neighbor’s children directly; this is sure to anger the parents. Instead, try to speak to the parents with a light, friendly tone – people tend to be very attached to their children, and probably wouldn't appreciate hearing anything overly derogatory about them, even if true. Give the parents the benefit of the doubt, and realize that it’s possible that they simply had no idea how much you could hear through the walls. But you might bring up some recent instances when you were disturbed by noise, and see if the parents can help.
For example, they might be able to limit the noisy, musical games, and toys that they give to their children. They might be able to encourage their children to play games involving sitting in their rooms, rather than running around the living room. They can also enforce “play hours” to ensure that the children would be quiet after a certain time, like 9 p.m. These are all reasonable accommodations in a crowded Manhattan building that reasonable parents would be receptive to hearing.
If all of this still doesn't work, you might suggest that they consider other measures – for example, installing sound-proofing panels on walls that are adjacent to your apartment, or carpeting to absorb sound in the areas where the children play. You might suggest that they split the cost of such measures.
If the parents refuse to entertain any of these remedial measures, your next step should be to contact the building management, either in a letter or by calling its central office. The building management likely has experience in handling these types of issues, given the number of young families in New York, and might have further creative ideas on how to limit your disturbance.