New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Lawyers always advise their co-op and condo board clients to negotiate an iron-clad licensing agreement with neighboring buildings if either party embarks on a renovation or construction project. The importance of those agreements, also called access agreements, is playing out dramatically right now in Greenwich Village.
The developer Madison Realty Capital demolished a pair of side-by-side rowhouses on Lower Fifth Avenue last year and began excavation work on the site to make way for a 19-story, 14-unit condominium tower designed by the star architect Robert A.M. Stern. But as the work progressed, The New York Post reports, cracks began to appear in interior and exterior walls of modest 14-unit rental building two doors down, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Eighth Street.
In mid-December 2022, tenants notified management of interior cracks. “The corner of a wall was separating and you could feel a draft,” one tenant said. The situation worsened. On Feb. 18, 2023, “the building was raining little brownstone chunks,” one tenant said. A passerby alerted authorities.
Early that morning, tenants awakened to find the building swarming with firefighters and building inspectors. By nightfall, a vacate order was placed on the front of the building and residents were given two hours to pack and leave. Most went to nearby hotels. Ten-day hotel stays were funded by Madison Realty Capital, according to a spokesperson. When the payments stopped, tenants scattered among friends, relatives and other temporary options for housing. Some tenants with renter’s insurance said their policies didn’t pay for additional living expenses, since “imminent collapse” was not a covered peril.
Cracks on the building's facade ran from the first floor to the parapet, and the building suffered from “separation of brownstone lintels” and “floor deflection,” according to the Department of Buildings (DOB) website. “An approximately three-inch separation had formed at the fifth floor level” between the vacated building and its next-door neighbor at 12 Fifth Ave., said Andrew Rudansky, a DOB spokesman. Oddly enough, that building, which is directly adjacent to the demolition/excavation site, did not suffer structural damage.
“I’ve always felt for homeless people,” said one former tenant of the vacated building. “May this never happen to you in your lifetime.”
Translation for co-op and condo boards: before a developer goes to work next door, sit down and work out a licensing agreement.
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