The good news is, after a fallow period in the depths of the recession, the construction industry in New York City is starting to come back. However, with that activity comes the potential for disputes and property damage, especially with neighboring properties. Lately some of the projects stalled in the economic downturn have come alive, and co-ops and condominiums next door to these projects have been calling me for advice on what to do to gear up.
One small co-op building found themselves with a Goliath next door. The construction project had been quiet for over one year, then suddenly shareholders started seeing a lot of activity. One day, the board president received a call from someone affiliated with the project, stating that they would need to “protect” the co-op building, and requesting a meeting to discuss an access agreement. This was a terrifying mixed message for the board. There was nothing about this project that would benefit the co-op, yet to some degree they couldn't say no, because such protection is required by law. So this quiet little co-op building called me in a panic about how to handle this situation.
My first order of business was to put together a team of experts to work with me in reviewing the plans for the project next door. Prior to that time, my client really had no idea of what the neighbor was planning to do, and how it would affect their property. Assembling such a team is essential if you are going to have any meaningful discussions with a neighboring developer. You need to fully understand the technical aspects of what they are planning to do, and fully understand if there is room for any counter-proposals. Frankly, developers are often hoping the neighboring building cannot (or will not) spend the money needed to do this investigation and determine what is really going on, and will pretty much agree to anything that does not sound too outrageous.
Show Us the Way
We started off with the developer inviting us over to “show us the plans.” The poor board president’s head was spinning as we heard for the first time what they were really proposing and how it would impact my co-op client’s building. The developer's rep was not eager to give us a copy of the very complicated plans, but we needed to review them ourselves to determine what the developers really wanted to do—and whether it was agreeable, trespassing, or something else entirely.