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New York Times - Letting the Internet Knock on the Door
New York Times - Letting the Internet Knock on the Door
11/14/2004

New York Times - Real Estate Section, Page 2. View the scan

By JOYCE COHEN

Do you know your neighbors? Probably not.

Jared Nissim didn't know his in his East Village building, and it bugged him. He said he thought his neighbors were "cool people I might want to hang out with under other circumstances.''

"It was ludicrous we didn't know each other," he said.

So he slipped a flier under each door, introducing himself and inviting his neighbors to join an e-mail list that would help them exchange information and plan informal gatherings.

From that evolved his Web site, MeetTheNeighbors.org, begun last month. One person takes the initiative to register the building, pass out fliers and plan a get-together, enabling neighbors to create "real-life, in-person, face-to-face relationships."

So far, about 500 people in more than 200 buildings have registered. Mr. Nissim estimates that 80 percent of the participants are in New York City, though buildings (and neighborhoods) elsewhere are welcome to join.

As a child, Mr. Nissim spent time on a kibbutz in Israel and enjoyed the sense of community. That sparked the idea for his earlier Web site, TheLunchClub.net. People simply show up for lunch at the designated place and time. He suspects his neighborly idea will be most successful in big buildings. He's unaware of similar Web sites, though a few buildings have Yahoo groups. In some places, of course, tenant or block associations serve, at least in part, a similar social function.

Currently, the most active building is the Encore, 301 West 53rd Street, where Terri Horowitz, 32, has taken charge. Craving city life, Ms. Horowitz moved to the building last winter from a two-family house in Weehawken, N.J. "You come here and think, 'I am going to live in a big building and meet a lot of people,' " she said. "But it doesn't ever come to fruition."

With more than 250 units, her building is so big she passed out fliers in three batches. So far, 67 people have registered. Ms. Horowitz hasn't yet planned the building's first gathering, but figures she will schedule a get-together at a new wine bar across the street, posting it on the Web site.

"I'm sure I won't get all 67 people, but if I get 10, that's a success," she said. "If I have to show up alone, I'll show up alone."

As for Mr. Nissim, "the vibe in the building really changed" after he invited his neighbors to meet in the building's backyard. (It rained that day, so they knocked on his door and gathered there instead.) He himself recently moved a block away and just started meeting his new neighbors, with responses from 10 people in his 40-unit building.

The idea is to be "informal and casual," he said, "not to be 'officially convening the meeting of the building.' It is all about hanging out."

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