Ask an Expert: Help with nude, smoking neighbors

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
October 25, 2011 - 10:26AM

Q. I live in a brownstone next to a mid-sized rental. Two young men recently moved into a third floor apartment there. They both smoke on their terrace, usually nude, talking on a cell phone and yelling back into the apartment. My bedroom window is about three feet away from the edge of their terrace.   

I have written them, the management company of their building, and called #311, but they will not take the complaint as they have no category for this situation.

Without hiring a lawyer and filing an injunction, is there any thing for me to do? I am highly allergic to secondhand smoke. 

A.  Because the problems are happening in the building next door rather than your own, your best bet may be to engage in some guerrilla tactics, advise our experts.

"In one of the cases I handled with issues similar to this, the affected tenant installed a clearly visible video system which had the effect of deterring the other tenant's behavior," says real estate lawyer Dean M. Roberts.   "In another case I dealt with, the affected tenant in essence launched a counterattack by making loud and disturbing noises early in the morning to offset the loud and disturbing noises made by the other tenant late at night."

Another avenue would be to see if other neighbors are offended or affected:  "Submit a petition with threat of legal action to the building owner," suggests Roberts.  "I would also recommend complaints to the 311 number perhaps emphasizing the noise and smoking, rather than the nudity."

Indeed, notes real estate attorney Robert Braverman, "the cold weather should solve the nudity problem," at least temporarily.

Also, although you mentioned that you have written a letter to your neighbors, a more direct approach might be fruitful.

"There are a number of helpful tactics you can use to assert your position without eliciting a defensive response," says Brad Heckman of the New York Peace Institute, a free mediation service (formerly known as Safe Horizon) for Manhattan and Brooklyn residents.  He says the steps outlined here usually work.

You can also seek free mediation from the New York Peace Institute; the only catch is that your neighbors must be willing to participate. 

"A typical mediation session lasts about two hours, and it really works," says Heckman. "Most people who come to mediation leave with a mutually acceptable agreement, or at least a better understanding between the parties."


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Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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