Taking It to the Streets: Dealing With Conflicts Outside Your Condo or Co-op What Boards Can Do in the Situation

There are numerous neighborhood factors that can chafe at the residents--especially of the late-night variety (iStock).

The day-to-day operation of a residential condo or co-op can certainly be a handful for its board of trusted volunteers. But not to add insult to injury, communal living doesn't happen in a vacuum, and there are likely to be outside activities that may directly or indirectly bear on an association. Whether it's a rambunctious new watering hole, burdensome construction, or an eyesore obliterating the once pristine horizon, boards occasionally need to combat external factors in order to preserve the internal character of their associations, properties and neighborhoods.

Know Thy Enemy

There are numerous neighborhood factors that can chafe at the residents of a property therein, but attacks on the senses seem to act as unifiers. Unsightly blights, noise – especially of the late-night variety – and smells that seem to permeate walls are all agreed-upon bugaboos when it comes to big city living.

“We represent a building on the waterfront in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn,” says Stephen Elbaz, founder and president of Esquire Management Corp. in Brooklyn. “The board there successfully persuaded the powers that be within the city agencies to 1) install a park where they had originally planned to construct a building that would have obstructed views; and 2) have the drinking and loud music happening in the later hours of a restaurant strongly curtailed, as it had been keeping residents up well into the night.”

William D. McCracken, a partner with the Manhattan law firm Ganfer & Shore, LLP, relates a conflict between a school that aimed to expand in a landmarked neighborhood and the residents who felt such an expansion would diminish the aesthetics and character of the area. “The opposition resulted in a lawsuit and major back-and-forth between lobbyists,” he says, “as the school submitted some false letters of support by employees claiming to actually by residents. It became a huge political football.”

And catering halls can cause any number of issues, what with their juxtaposition of frequent deliveries of food and supplies, music, and pedestrian and vehicular traffic. “For one thing, under New York City's zoning resolution, catering is generally deemed to be incompatible with residential use,” says Phyllis H. Weisberg, an attorney with Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, which has offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. “You get frequent truck deliveries, both to set up an event and break it down thereafter. And there are crowds arriving and departing more or less at one time, as opposed to a restaurant, where people dribble in and out all day. You have loud parties and often people will mill about noisily on the street. Photography taking place outside of the venues can block the sidewalks. This type of use can profoundly change the quality of life in the neighborhood, and if the neighborhood has a lot of families, introducing an element where noise from events, party goers outside after an event, and cars honking because of the traffic impact occur until the late hours of the evening--that can interfere with sleep, especially for children.”

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