Q. Are garbage disposals illegal in New York City?  How do you get caught and what’s the penalty?

A:  Garbage disposals have been legal in New York for more than a decade now, but our BrickTank experts confirm that many if not most New York City apartment buildings—particularly prewars—still don’t allow them.

Unfortunately, the older pipes that serve many of the city’s vertical villages tend to have so much sludge and scaling in their waste lines that the additional ground-up waste produced by a garbage disposal can result in clots, back-ups, overflows and property damage, say property managers Thomas Usztoke and Michael Wolfe.

Sometimes the clogs are only an issue in part of the building, however.

In his co-op, says Manhattan architect William W. Suk, a horizontal pipe connects two vertical pipes partway up the building.

“The food waste built up over time and eventually the 50 year old pipe gave way and burst into the apartment below,” he says. “Not a pretty scene.”  

From then on, garbage disposals were only permitted in apartments below the 18th floor, where the horizontal pipe lurked.

Where rules prohibit garbage disposals, some residents install them on the sly.

Getting away with it can be “a matter of whether your resident manager turns a blind eye or hasn’t yet had a chance to notice it in your kitchen,”  says Usztoke.  

Most disposal smugglers get caught when something goes wrong outside the apartment.

“Usually the sink waste line is tied with another such as another kitchen on the other side of a wall, or a bathroom in an adjacent apartment,” says resident manager Joseph Shkreli.  “If the installation is illegal, the adjacent apartment  could be getting backups in their sink, tub, or even in some cases their toilet.”

Harborers of contraband disposals are financially responsible for fixing any damage. They may also be subject to penalties by co-op or condo boards, says property manager Michael Donuk.

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