New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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A Co-op Board Can Turn Down the Volume in a Noisy Bar

Washington Heights, Manhattan

Noisy Bar

Living upstairs from a noisy bar is nobody's idea of a day at the beach.

Oct. 31, 2019

After moving into a fourth-floor apartment in a Washington Heights co-op, a couple discovered that the bar on the ground floor turns into a raging nightclub from midnight until 4 a.m. The couple complained repeatedly to management, but nothing changed. The bar is a commercial tenant of the co-op, but the board president says nothing can be done. Doesn’t a co-op board have a say over its commercial tenant’s behavior? 

“The sword of eviction may be the best weapon to get the bar in line,” David Kasdan, a partner in the law firm Boyd Richards Parker Colonnelli, tells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times

However, the board might be reluctant to alienate a commercial tenant that generates valuable income for the cooperative if only one person is complaining. So the unhappy couple on the fourth floor should try to locate other unhappy shareholders. Neighbors should then band together and write letters to the board and managing agent, insisting that the problem be addressed. The co-op board has power over its commercial tenant, and could force the bar to lower the volume. 

“You may need an attorney to read your co-op the riot act,” advises Alan Fierstein, a Manhattan noise consultant. A lawyer could remind the board that, as the landlord, it must address conditions that violate the warranty of habitability, a state law. All New Yorkers are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. 

The board could hire a noise consultant to determine whether the sound violates the city noise code, which prohibits excessively loud music from business establishments. Even if the noise is legal, the disruption could still be a nuisance and in violation of the commercial lease. If that’s the case, as Kasdan notes, the co-op board could threaten the bar with eviction if it doesn’t turn down the volume. 

Another strategy: File a noise complaint with the State Liquor Authority, which could revoke the bar’s liquor license. No liquor license means no bar. And no bar means no more noise.

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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