Q: My boyfriend and I live on the ground floor of an apartment building on a busy street in South Brooklyn. He insists on keeping the windows facing the street open at night and when we’re out during the day, as he likes the fresh air. Fair enough, but there are no bars on the windows, and I worry someone could get in. He thinks our busy street is a deterrent enough. How do I persuade him that we need to keep the windows closed when we’re not around?
A: Living with a partner is a delicate dance. How long should dishes pile up in the sink before they are washed? Should the bed be made every morning? Many domestic disagreements are about personal preferences, with limited risk. No one will get hurt if the toilet seat is left up, but leave a window open, and the consequences could be grave. Burglaries happen, and a first-floor apartment is an easy target.
As of early May, there have been 455 burglaries in South Brooklyn this year, according to NYPD. But showing your boyfriend this information may not be terribly persuasive because he surely understands that crime happens in New York. He may just have different priorities than you.
You’re worried about safety. He’s worried about ventilation. You may see his concerns as trivial compared to yours, but the air bothers him, and that is no small thing. Fortunately, you can find solutions to both of your concerns.
“What they really care about are two things that don’t have to be in conflict with one another,” said Marika Yip-Bannicq, a postdoctoral research scientist with the Columbia Couples Lab and a psychology lecturer at Columbia University. “If this is straining their relationship, they should get on the same page and find a creative solution.”
Find a way to better ventilate the apartment without risking your safety. You could install a locked window gate, providing it meets the city’s safety standards (you can check by locating the serial number on the label and confirming that it is approved by the Fire Department). Get written permission from management since the landlord is not obligated to install gates and most leases have a clause prohibiting tenants from making alterations, according to Samuel J. Himmelstein, A Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants. When you move out, you may have to remove the gate and repair any damage to the window.
You could also install a window-unit air conditioner and ventilate the apartment with the fan or A/C setting. A standing fan might also provide enough ventilation. You both live in the apartment, and there is no reason it can’t be a healthy and safe place.
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