New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine June 2020 free digital issue




A Tale of Two Warring Brownstone Neighbors

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Unneighborly Balcony
Nov. 14, 2018

Here’s a sad story about two New York brownstones. A couple recently bought a co-op apartment in an Upper West Side brownstone with a large living room window overlooking the building’s garden. Now the owners of the abutting apartment in the neighboring brownstone are getting ready to build a glass balcony off their master bedroom that will obstruct the view and dim the light of the recent arrivals next door. Worse, anyone standing on the balcony will be able peer directly into the neighbors’ living room. The owner claims to have the proper permits. Is it possible to stop or alter these plans?

If the recent co-op purchasers hire an architect, and the architect is able to determine the balcony poses a safety hazard or obstructs their access to light and air as required by the city’s building and zoning codes, the co-op board should address the issue on behalf of the aggrieved shareholders, attorney Scott Greenspun, a principal at Braverman Greenspun tells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. If the balcony in question complies with city rules, neighbors will have to live with it. Or the shareholders could contest it on their own. 

“If it’s not affecting the health and safety of the building’s residents, then it’s on you to deal with it,” Greenspun says. The shareholders’ architect could pull the permits, applications, and possibly the design plans from the Department of Buildings to check for other violations. If violations are found, the shareholders could approach the balcony-builders next door and insist that they amend their design to comply with city rules. If they refuse to make modifications, it’s possible bring the grievance to the city by calling 311 or the Buildings Department. It’s also possible to pursue remedies with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals

If the city rejects the complaint, the last option is to appeal the decision in New York State Supreme Court. Shareholders who decides to go that route should get their wallet out.

Ask the Experts

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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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