New York's Googling Doormen: It's Getting Creepy
The doorman who?
The doorman who's tweeting about this terrible joke.
The exchange above is no laughing matter, and some tenants in New York City are finding their relationships with their doormen just as unfunny. That's because some of those men and women who faithfully open doors, carry things and make conversation with tenants could be the same who are Googling tenants' names, tweeting about their conversations, and even writing books about them without the residents ever knowing.
The kicker is that tenants who unwittingly stumble into these situations might not have any recourse but to keep to themselves.
A recent New York Daily News article told the story of Rafat Ali, a tenant in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan who was Googled by his irritated doorman. Ali sold a media company, made himself a few bucks and had redecorated his apartment. This, Ali guessed, probably made the doorman curious enough to Google the tenant's name.
The last straw for the doorman was when Ali said he was waiting on guests for his housewarming party; the doorman replied with a warning that Ali was not allowed on the roof, and accused him of having an attitude.
"You think you're better than us," the doorman reportedly told Ali. "I Googled you and because you sold your company for however many millions of dollars, you think you are a big shot."
Ali filed a complaint with the building's superintendent, who responded with a written apology.
This isn't the only report of a doorman wading into the gray depths of tenant privacy. Last summer, there was some buzz about a doorman who shared tidbits about his tenants with his Twitter handle, DoormaninNYcity, which has since been shut down.
During the potential doorman strike last month (which, in light of this subject, might have been something of a relief for irked apartment tenants), apartment tenants in New York began receiving e-mails urging them to support a fair contract for building workers in the city. The problem: They never signed up to be on those e-mail lists.
There was speculation that doormen got tenants' e-mail addresses from building rosters, and that tenants were given misleading forms to fill out.
Yet another story comes courtesy of a purported doorman who contributes under the name "Openthedoor-man" on BrickUnderground.com, where he/she recently posted about helping out with the trash sometimes. Recently, the anonymous writer wrote about finding an empty pill bottle of Famciclovir, the generic drug used to treat herpes. The bottle allegedly belonged to one of the more promiscuous residents of the building.
"Ever since then, I am in the strange position of sitting silently by while this resident brings home many guests who may be unsuspecting of this resident's condition," Openthedoor-man wrote. "Am I a bad person for not warning them? Sadly for both of us, it's not my business."
But that didn't stop him from penning a short book titled "Opening Doors: A New York City Doorman's Secrets and Stories." The short compilation of intriguing tales about tenants is available on Scribd.com.
"You'd be surprised what we all know," the anonymous author writes in his introduction. "What we've seen and heard. And what secrets tenants have wanted us to keep hidden. So allow me now to open the doors of just one building and the life of a doorman who has worked in it."
While the above examples are certainly distressing, most doormen are far more respectful of the line between the private and public realms, according to Andrew J. Spinnell, an attorney for the Law Offices of Andrew J. Spinnell LLC in New York.
"Most doormen that I have encountered," he said, "regard their job as carrying almost like a fiduciary or trusting confidential relationship to tenants that requires them to keep confidential what they see and hear in the building."
Eduardo A. Fajardo, an attorney with De Lotto & Fajardo LLP in New York, downplays the significance of things like Googling tenants or tweeting about interactions with them. "On the surface this seems like a juicy issue, but at the end of the day it is probably more drama than anything else."
He said that being Googled "may be creepy, but it is not an invasion of privacy." He added that tweets are only actionable if defamation is involved.
"In any event, in my experience I have seen that most NYC doormen make horrible witnesses at court because they tend to follow the code of 'see no evil, speak no evil' in connection with landlord-tenant disputes. You may know how it is in NYC -- you don't bother me, I don't bother you."
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