A Political Sign-Free Zone: Your Building Have New York City Co-ops and Condos Given Up Political Speech?

With the 2016 presidential primaries in our rear-view and the general election just a few short (read: long) months away, New York City is another victim of the presidential circus. Bernie Sanders alone recently whipped leftists into a frenzy, drawing unprecedented crowds to rallies at both Washington Square and Prospect Parks, and the other candidates (save for Ted Cruz, who garnered less hype on his Big Apple tour) were no slouches themselves. With all of this political fervor in our midst, co-op and condo residents may also be “feeling the Bern,” or looking to advertise that they, too, want to make America great again.

"Every set of bylaws in condos and proprietary leases in co-ops and house rules prohibit any kind of electioneering—not even stickers on doors," says Stuart Saft, a partner with the Manhattan-based law firm of Holland & Knight. "There may be instances where these things happen, but I've certainly seen nothing of the sort of late, and we've just endured the most hotly contested skirmish between the two dominant political parties."

Sign Me Up

Peter Lehr, director of property management at Kaled Management Corp. with offices in New York City and Westbury, Long Island, echoes this sentiment: "I have not, in all of my years in this business, had [electioneering] become an issue. Never once, and I'm trying to rack my brain. Obviously, after 9/11, people hung flags out of their windows, and, as a loyal patriot, I would never have even thought to tell people to pull those back. But that's about it. I've never really once seen political paraphernalia become an issue."

Lest one think that flags are a safe bastion of (semi-)political expression among condos and co-ops, let Barry Manson, an attorney and president of ABM Management Corp. in Great Neck, disavow you of that notion: "Believe it or not, we represent one condo that prohibits even the flying of the American flag, save for holidays, in its bylaws. Although they don't particularly enforce that rule."

The Flag Act

Co-ops, condos, HOAs and single-family homes, under law, cannot prohibit flying of the nation's flag under legislation signed into law in 2006. The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act "states that a condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent an association member from displaying the U.S. flag on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use."

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