New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine December 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

22 W. 15TH STREET

When Secondhand Smoke Seeps In

Written by Richard Siegler on December 31, 1969

22 W. 15th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan

 

Is the co-op or condo liable when secondhand smoke emanates from an apartment? It is indeed, according to the landmark ruling in Poyck v. Bryant. When smoke gets in your eyes — or nose or throat — this violates the warranty of habitability that applies to all residential apartments.

Peter Poyck, the owner of condominium unit 5-D at 22 West 15th Street in Manhattan, began subleasing this apartment to Stanley and Michelle Bryant in 1998. In March 2001, new neighbors moved into 5-C next door. The newcomers constantly smoked there and in the common fifth-floor hallway, and secondhand smoke penetrated the walls. The Bryants complained to the superintendent, Frank Baldanza, who allegedly spoke to the next-door neighbors, to no avail. The smoke continued unabated.

When the super's efforts failed, Stanley Bryant wrote a letter on June 29, 2001, to the super, to Peter Poyck, and to Poyck's attorney seeking a solution. This was not simply a matter of unpleasant odors; it represented an ongoing health hazard for Bryant's wife, who was recovering from her second cancer surgery and who claimed to be extremely allergic to such smoke. To try to remedy the situation, Bryant sealed his apartment entry door with weather-stripping and a draft barrier. He operated two HEPA air filters 'round the clock, incurring additional electric charges. Despite this, the Bryants could still smell smoke from 5-C in their apartment.

Bryant wrote another letter, this time to owner/landlord Poyck, asking if he could remedy this problem, adding that otherwise, " we must consider finding a healthier living situation."

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