One thing many people in a small town complain about is that there is no privacy, everyone always knows whats going on. They know who you're dating, or who you have over for dinner, probably even what you're cooking. Well, I would offer up the same thing about a great city: it's tiny little towns in each neighborhood. Everyone knows whats up with their neighbors.
For example, I happen to know that our recently moved-in-neighbors downstairs throw a lot of big dinner parties. I know they cook really amazing smelling food that wafts through the building. And I now know that the potential reason for these ultra-popular parties they're having and most definitely for the great smells wafting, is that they're barbecuing in their kitchen. With an outdoor grill.
Now, I know this only because of another neighbor. One who doesn't even live in our building.
Our next door neighbor, who, because of city-life-proximity, looks into their kitchen when he's on his back porch (full disclosure: he can see right into our kitchen, as well, but we actually are aware of it) reported to me the very next day after amazing smells permeated the building, that he'd seen an outdoor grill in my neighbor's kitchen. He was incensed! I was...um, surprised?
Sure, sure, I know it's a total fire hazard... but, I don't actually know these neighbors well enough yet to tell them what I do know about them is via the next door neighbor. See, knowing everything about your neighbors is more of a well-kept, but ultimately known amongst good neighbors, secret. We hear what time someone comes home; We see the guests that come over; We watch the dates stroll down the stairs in the morning; We hear your baby screaming at all hours. We've all been here a long time: an early morning nod is as good as a two hour, smoke break, wine drinking, session you have on the front porch with each other as you're just getting home from work. We just know. We know each other in a neighborly way.
My building in NY was exactly the same way. I remember the first building meeting. Hell, I called it! I was fairly new in the building, there was a lot of bad crud going down and I suggested we band together and hold back rent. It was a bonding moment. Not everyone agreed. And I think I even started a fight with my upstairs neighbor. But the point, the clear point, was that I was looking out for the best interests of the building and especially it's tenants. And that's what a good neighbor does. Even in a big city: It's important to go borrow a cup of sugar, even if you don't always need it.