Neighbors From Hell, In Paradise

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Breathtaking beaches, bucolic meadows, endless expanses. All can be ruined by one bad neighbor—as many East Enders know.

A crazy neighbor. An annoying neighbor. A messy neighbor. A neighbor who is too scary to even talk about, out of fear of retribution.

“I can write a chapter on mine,” one local resident said. “Want to write a novel?” another asked.

From accounts of a neighbor accusing another of purposefully killing his flowers to reports of a convict chopping up his home with an ax, these are not easy stories to tell. Nor are they always easy people to handle.

“I’m sick of them. I’m sick of people like them,” one frustrated resident said. “And there’s more of them. They’re doing things to people every damn day. And it needs to stop.”

A Crazy StoryFor Kym S., the last two decades have been “20 years of lunacy.”

“It’s ridiculous what she does to us,” Ms. S. said last week of her neighbor during a telephone interview. “It’s crazy.”

Everyone in East Quogue knows this particular resident. Everyone in the hamlet has a nickname for her, Ms. S. said. And anyone unacquainted with her wouldn’t think twice about her. Until they saw her home.

“You’d never guess anything’s wrong with her, but then you get to her house and it’s a whole different bag of chips,” Ms. S. said. “She’s very well-dressed. Her hair is always perfect. People are realizing that her looks are deceiving.”

For starters, she doesn’t mow her lawn, which is at least 4 feet high, Ms. S. reported. She doesn’t cut back her trees. She doesn’t paint her house, which is falling into disrepair.

And that, Ms. S. said, is the least of it.

“For as long as I can remember, she has written stories to the Press, to every local paper, about us, about our home, just constantly tearing apart Southampton Town,” Ms. S. said. “She’s constantly calling our house a share house. I live here with my sister and my mother. She calls my sister and I the ‘unwed mothers.’ We’re both married, by the way. And she’s very vocal. Literally.”

The family has ceased greeting her. A “Hi, how are you?” was often met with silence, or worse.

“F— you!” Ms. S. said her neighbor from Hell would reply, never self-censoring in front of Ms. S.’s three children—ages 16, 8 and 3.

The neighbor has woven a line of fence through the trees lining their mutual driveway, stacking up garbage and pieces of plywood to block her view of the family from the other side, Ms. S. said. But sometimes, when the garbage is absent, she’ll show up in person—taking photos of Ms. S. retrieving her children from the bus stop or simply waiting with her hands on her hips, staring.

“She’s scared my kids,” Ms. S. said. “My daughter, I get her off the bus and she’ll be standing there and she’ll ask me, ‘What’s wrong with that lady, Mom?’ I tell her to avoid her like the plague because I don’t know what she’s capable of.”

The next time an incident occurs, the family has decided to report their neighbor’s behavior to the police, Ms. S. said. In the meantime, she has told her children not to acknowledge her. And in the middle of the night, when the brush gets too wild, Ms. S. sneaks down to the bottom of the driveway to cut it back.

“Literally, every day is like a vendetta to get us kicked out of our home. It’s ridiculous,” Ms. S. said. “She’s out of control, she really is. And it’s just been year after year. You think it will die down, that she’ll get tired of trying to ruin everyone’s lives. But she doesn’t.”

She sighed, and continued, “There’s nothing we can do to change the fact that she lives there. Same goes for everyone else. They own their properties, so you’re suck with them no matter what you do.”

A Higher PathStephanie Brody-Lederman once shared a tiny view of the water with a neighbor in East Hampton. Then, one day, he planted a large pine tree smack dab in the middle of it.

She called him into her house to explain how it was blocking part of her “cherished vista,” she said last week during a telephone interview, having no reason to doubt that he was as respectful of their shared view as she.

That is, until she returned a week later to find nine more trees planted alongside the original offender, straight in a line, completely obliterating her view of the water.

She was devastated. So, naturally, she retaliated. That summer, Ms. Brody-Lederman listened to her Sonic Youth albums, perhaps a bit too loudly, on her deck where she used to enjoy the water, she said.

“Oh, he was walking around with headphones on his ears,” she cackled. “The thing that most threw me off-balance was that there was no warning about this man’s character. I assumed he was a regular, nice guy. And therefore, I was stunned by his ugly behavior.”

However, her vengeance was fleeting. She was consumed by the encounter, constantly thinking about her lost slice of paradise, she said. Psychologically, she forced herself to remove the view from her mind and burned all of her photographs of the water and of the trees.

“Not having the pictures around seemed to take the edge off my anger. I’m a visual person, I’m an artist, so if I don’t have an image, it just fades the feeling a great deal for me,” she said. “So now, it’s just a story.”

But one with a happy ending. Not long after the incident, and following a particularly bad storm, Ms. Brody-Lederman cleared out some dead trees only to find another small water view on her property lying in wait.

“It was miraculous,” she said. “But the thing I knew I didn’t want to happen was for all that bad karma to interfere with my enjoyment of this beautiful piece of land. So I just had to push them out. One has to put it in perspective. It’s very annoying. But, in this case, it’s not life threatening.”

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