Photo by myself on West 10th Street, in the West Village.
In older walk-up buildings in New York, there are typically two sets of doors.
The first set of doors, just off the sidewalk, stays unlocked. Just inside is a small vestibule, where the mailboxes are located. The mailman drops off mail for each apartment without having to have a door key. All he or she needs is a one key that unlocks all the mailboxes.
The floor of the vestibule is usually littered with flyers, take out menus, business cards for locksmiths and phone books. I remember phone books sitting the vestibule when I lived in on the Upper West Side, for months on end. The last thing anyone wanted to do was lug a phone book up to their apartment along with groceries, gym clothes, their mail, perhaps a child in a stroller, and themselves.
The second door stays locked. You'd stumble home at night, get into the vestibule, and dig around for your keys. If you were street smart, you had your key out well before getting home. The vestibule was not a good place to linger, with your back turned to the street.
The stoop is usually up a few steps up from the sidewalk. It's the perfect place to sit and hang out during the summer. You can just barely see the drop-down ladder of the fire escape, to the upper left of the door.
Related posts: On Tenement Life and Cable TV, The Apthorp, the Upper West Side, and The Low-Down on Walk-Ups.