The Market

Jerome Strelov, Esq., on air rights and wrongs

By Tracy Kaler  | September 19, 2012 - 11:13AM

Problem-solving New York City real estate attorney Jerry Strelov is the subject of our Real.Est. List Spotlight this week.

In addition to knowing his way around air rights, Strelov specializes in high-end rentals and co-op and condo purchases; he loves to negotiate and review leases and contracts as much as he enjoys sleuthing for information some might prefer remain hidden during due diligence.

Air-rights-wise, says Strelov, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • “Air rights are complex creatures, but in their simplest form they are the rights to erect a building up to a certain height,” says Strelov, who sits on the Co-op and Condo Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association. "Buildings that are lower than their maximum allowed height can sell their air rights to neighboring buildings."
  • The sky may or may not be the limit when it comes pricing air rights: "It really depends on the bargaining power of the parties," says Strelov. "A good place to start is the square foot selling price in the particular neighborhood--i.e., what the developer can get--then subtract building costs and work from there."
  • Before you sign on the dotted line to buy that apartment with the great view of the Hudson, think about whether your neighbors on the west can build upwards enough to block your view. Warning: This can get expensive.  "It would involve verifying the view that one wants preserved and then checking the land records for the properties that are 'in the way,'" says Strelov. "I would probably consult with an architect or zoning expert."
  • Things like air shafts and stairwells might not be considered in figuring the amount of air rights a building can use. The available rights need to be figured by an architect familiar with the rules.
  • Air rights last longer than most marriages. Once in, you cannot get out. A sale (or purchase) is basically a perpetual deal that cannot be undone without both sides agreeing.  So think before you leap.

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