How to grill on your terrace or in your backyard in NYC — legally

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With the unofficial start of summer this weekend comes the unofficial start to outdoor grilling season. If firing up some burgers and hotdogs is something you'd like to do right here in the city, and you'd like to do it sooner rather than later, we suggest you brush up on the rules (courtesy of Habitat) and, of course, check with your co-op board or building management to see whether they allow it.

Here's the gist: In NYC, your grill must be more than 10 feet from anything that can easily catch fire, including building walls, which means in most cases, balcony barbecues are not allowed (and neither is fire-escape grilling). Plus, you need to have immediate access to a fire extinguisher or a water supply when you grill.

Now, when it comes to the types of barbecues, know this:

  • Propane is generally a no-no, since the NYC Fuel Gas Code states that you can't store standard backyard propane on a balcony, roof deck, backyard, or in a courtyard. (You can use a propane tank that’s smaller than 16.4 ounces in some cases.)
  • Natural gas grills can be used, but they have to be made for residential (not commercial) use. And gas lines need to be installed by a NYC-licensed master plumber. 
  • Cooking with a charcoal barbecue is legal on a terrace or in a backyard—but not on a balcony or roof. 
  • Electric grills are allowed on balconies, terraces, roofs, or yards, as long as co-op or condo rules allow it.  A DOB-licensed electrician should come in to make sure that your outlet can handle a grill.

Still feeling nervous about firing up the barbecue in a city as densely populated as New York? You might be slightly comforted by the fact that any barbecue-related mishaps are probably covered by your third-party liability insurance.

And have you checked out these apartments with tricked out grilling/outdoor spaces? We think they'll make you forget any worries you have.

***This post was updated on May 26, 2016.


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