Q: The rear windows of my apartment in a Westchester co-op overlook a small outdoor sitting area with views of woods, birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Since spring, a new resident as been grilling there, obliterating the serenity of the space. After shareholders complained, the board insisted he move his grill 10 feet from the wall, but didn’t make any other demands. He’s still out there daily with two grills, chairs and an enormous toy car. He shouts and blasts his music. When I complained to management, I was told that he’s allowed to grill. But what about my comfort and my rights to use the space that he now dominates?
A: Co-op boards do not like to get in the middle of neighbor disputes, so you need to make a strong case. Your board might think that it adequately addressed the problem when it told your neighbor to move the grill to a safer area. The space is a common area and if grilling is permitted, the board may not be terribly concerned. Families are spending much more time at home, and your neighbor may simply be looking for ways to enjoy his summer.
But you are also home, and are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of your apartment. “If this shareholder is suffering from something that is being done on the cooperative property, the co-op has an obligation to address the issue,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate lawyer and partner at the Manhattan firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas.
Ask a board member, or a building employee, like the super, to come to your apartment when your neighbor is outside grilling so they can see and hear the disturbance directly. Or, show the board that you are not the only aggrieved resident, as it will be more likely to take action if this is a collective problem. You mentioned that other shareholders also complained; ask if any would be willing to jointly sign a letter about the issue.
You could also try to appeal to your neighbor directly. Take a deep breath and go outside during one of his grilling sessions. Explain that you understand that he is enjoying the weather, but you too want to enjoy the space, and the quiet of your home. Appeal to him as a neighbor, not an adversary, by requesting that he lower the volume so that you can all enjoy the space during what is, for many people, a challenging summer.