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When Doormen Tweet

Privacy? How old-fashioned. These days, intrabuilding gossip can go global.

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Illustration by Peter Arkle  

Apartment buildings are gossip mines, and the guys with the gold are the staff. They see your mail; they see you coming home at 3 a.m. Which is why the most irresistible contributor to BrickUnderground.com—a newish real-estate website devoted to “vertical living,” run by the former Times contributor Teri Karush Rogers—is a doorman, writing under the name Openthedoor-man. He’s not shy about revelation. One resident’s trash (he says) recently revealed an empty bottle of famciclovir, a standard herpes drug, discarded by someone who brought home a new partner about once a week. Ever since, he’s been silently reflecting on whether to alert overnight guests as they arrive. In other posts, he discusses residents who get regular deliveries of “stimulants” from the local dealer, and reveals candid thoughts about the size of that holiday cash envelope.

This week, BrickUnderground will introduce another new column, this one by an unnamed elevator operator, who is even less discreet than his predecessor. His first posts will reportedly include stories about trysts with a shareholder’s daughter (in his elevator!) and on-duty pot-smoking. And last year, a Twitter feed appeared under the name DoormaninNYcity. (One typical tweet linked to this posting: “A resident came down to the lobby with his daughter to pick up a box of wine she asked ‘daddy what’s that?’ he said ‘juice’ she said ‘juice for me’ he said ‘no for mommy.’ lol.”) DoormaninNYcity abruptly signed off Twitter in August, and we’ll probably never know whether his building ID’d him.

He’s not the only one worried about being discovered: No tenant wants to see his dirty laundry aired like this, even anonymously. Paul Gottsegen of Halstead Management, which handles 80 buildings, notes: “This isn’t manufacturing widgets. You’re dealing with people, and people can get hurt … If the staff can’t handle it and keep [things] private, they’re in the wrong business.” Yet it turns out that discretion is not part of the official job description. Nothing in the Local 32BJ union contract—currently up for negotiation—addresses blogging or social networking. Lawyer Steven Wagner, who once argued a case against Google that ended up outing an anonymous blogger, says that although it’s “bad form for staff to post these things on the Internet … residents have to be careful. It would be foolish to assume the things you do or say in front of your doorman carries an expectation of privacy.” Real-estate attorney Aaron Shmulewitz suggests that co-op and condo boards consider having employees sign confidentiality agreements. “Talking in a bar on a Friday night … that’s going to disappear into the night air. Putting it on Facebook or Twitter or some blog—that’s not.”


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