Time to add a new smoke-free building to our list of non-smoking NYC rentals, co-ops and condos: Union Square's 647-unit Zeckendorf Towers has become New York City's largest smoke-free condo.
Under the new prohibition--approved by more than two-thirds of the 85% unit owners who voted, according to a press release--smoking is banned both in residential and public areas, including outdoor spaces. A grandfather clause grants existing owner-residents who smoke a three-year interval before their units are subject to the smoke-free policy.
The Zeckendorf vote may be a tipping point.
"The publicity generated will likely get other boards thinking about the issue--or rethinking it," says real estate attorney Scott Greenspun of Manhattan's Braverman Greenspun. "Condo boards that have previously considered proposing an amendment to the by-laws to prevent smoking, but were concerned about whether it would pass, might be inclined to now place the issue up for a vote."
Interestingly, Greenspun adds, bigger buildings may have an easier time of it.
In a larger development like Zeckendorf, he says, "customarily the number of persons smoking are a distinct minority and, therefore, would not have enough support to defeat the measure. In a small condominium, a few smokers and any sympathizers might have sufficient common interest to defeat the super-majority needed--customarily two thirds--to pass an amendment to the by-laws," he says.
We caught up with one anonymous and somewhat conflicted resident of the Zeckendorf towers who abstained from the vote.
"On the one hand, I understand the feeling of non-smoking neighbors that smokers impose their thing externally," she explains. "However, it felt overly restrictive and unreasonable. Preventing smoking in the hallways I understand. Forbidding throwing butts out the windows into the courtyard I understand. That impacts the common space. But, really, in our own apartments, we cannot smoke? What if it's pot? What if I am not smoking but doing cocaine? ... Even though I am incredibly liberal and willing to impose restrictive regulations for the good of the community, I was concerned that this was over controlling of neighbors and unwarranted because into went into the doors of our private homes."
She also wondered whether a smoking ban would negatively affect resale value.
"But," she says, "I could see at the same time that some buyers might consider the rule an enhancement, and I did not reach a conclusion on this point."
"I have a quiet suspicion that this is like the usual bug-up-the-ass of someone on the board type of thing, and I shy away from that," she says. "Because of all that, because we do not smoke and are not at all impacted one way or the other, I felt that I would defer to the will of the majority," she says.