New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Blow Leaves Into the Street at Your Peril

New York City

Leaf Blowers
Dec. 18, 2018

The leaf blower is arguably second only to the cell phone among inventions that enable infuriatingly boorish noisy antisocial behavior. The experience of residents on one Manhattan street is typical, where supers routinely fire up leaf blowers and send leaves and other debris roaring from sidewalks into the street. 

This is often done on days when the street sweeper is scheduled to make its rounds, in the misguided hope that the sweeper will make the mess vanish, according to Steven Birbach, president of Vanderbilt Property Management, who urges the buildings he manages to avoid this common practice. 

“We try to tell them, ‘What are you doing? It does no good. You’re just wasting time. It just swirls around and comes back,’” Birbach tells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. He advises supers in the buildings he manages to collect all leaves and debris and bag them up for proper collection by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY). 

Property owners, including co-op and condo boards, are required to maintain their sidewalks, keeping an area of up to 18 inches into the street free of debris, according to DSNY. That means building staffs can’t just blow the mess into the street and hope for the best. As Birbach notes, some of it is sure to blow back onto the sidewalk – something worth considering since one of the most common tickets written by DSNY inspectors is for dirty sidewalks, according to Stacey Kwiatkoski, manager of operations at MD Squared Property Group

Residents who are unhappy with the noise and mess caused by leaf blowers could remind management that blowing debris into the street violates city rules. They could even go the extra step and try to persuade management to put down the leaf blowers because they’re noisy, polluting and potentially harmful to the workers who use them and inhale the fine particulate matter. Imagine a city without leaf blowers! Once they’re gone, it’ll be time to go after cell phones and sirens and car horns and jackhammers...

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