Summer in the City: Dealing with neighborly nuisances when temps and tempers soar

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | July 22, 2013 - 2:55PM

Rising temperatures exacerbate many of the nuisances associated with vertical living. And since neighbors tend to top New Yorkers' list of nuisances at anytime during the year, it's no surprise that tempers can fly in the summer. 

"People are out, windows are open and kids are home from school.. That is a recipe for trouble," says Manhattan real estate attorney Dean Roberts of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus

Here are the 4 most common summer-in-the-city boiling points, according to the experts we spoke with:

1. Wait, what's that smell?

Whether it's pot or cigarette smoke or the smell of your lucky terrace-owning neighbors barbecuing, summer is prime time to get a whiff of something you'd rather not. In part, that's because more people are doing such things outdoors and/or more windows are usually open.

But humidity is also a major culprint.

"Humidity--water in the air--displaces odor molecules that might otherwise adhere to surfaces and not be smell-able ," says Pamela Dalton, a research scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in the smaller but equally humid city of Philadelphia.

Once odor molecules are displaced, "they can become airborne and travel into the nose where we can breathe them in and smell them," she says. The hotter it is--like during our recent heatwave--the more mobile odor molecules become.

Compound that with the fact that "humidity also makes your nose work better and get more sensitive, so not only are there more odors to be smelled, but you can 'smell' better in the warm, humid weather," says Dalton. "The bottom line is that things that are smelly are going to be more smelly in hot, humid weather...and that's true for good odors as well as bad!"

The biggest summertime smell complaint is cigarette smoke, says real estate attorney and rental property manager Adam Stone of Regosin, Edwards, Stone and Feder.

"Whenever there’s a dispute with a neighbor, the first thing to do is to simply talk to them in a nice way," says Stone. "We’re all adults."

If the problem persists, Stone recommends complaining to building management and/or the board depending on your building, noting that this approach tends to work better in co-ops and condos than rentals.

2. That frat row feeling

Summer is also the time when college kids are home from school and backyard and rooftop parties are de rigeur. One problem Roberts says he hears about during the summer are teenage kids whose parents work turning apartments into party central.

Keep in mind though, that people have a right to party, as long as they're considerate of neighbors.

"If you hear talking going on outside between 8 and 10 p.m., you're probably going to have to relax and deal with it," says Stone.

That said, your building should have rules governing when they public areas can be used and whether people should be notified if it’s a gathering of more than  a certain  number of people, says Stone.  And your building should have means of enforcing the rules through fines, or revoking privileges.

"The bottom line is that a well-run building should have rules in place ahead of time to manage these situations, so hopefully a conversation with the neighbor is enough," Stone says.


3. Grill space jockeying--and general grossness

A lot of newer buildings have shared outdoor space with grills.

"You'd be surprised how many disputes arise over who's going to use the grills and when, and whether people are cleaning them sufficiently," says co-op and condo attorney Robert Braverman of Braverman Greenspun.

He recommends that buildings have a set of clear guidelines regarding shared amenities. However, he says, "buildings need to walk the line of not being overly Draconian. Unfortunately, a lot of it is trial and error." 

4. An abundance of houseguests

While many New Yorkers summer outside the city, there are also plenty of out-of-towners who come in during the summer. If you're feeling like your building is moonlighting as a Howard Johnson's, you may want to contact the higher-ups.

"If you have a concern and you see all different kinds of people coming in and out at all times, can certainly make an inquiry with the management or the board," says Stone.

Houseguests are one thing; renting out an apartment for less than 30 days through sites like is actually illegal in NYC.


Related posts:

Just moved in? Here's how to succeed as a first-time owner

The great NYC outdoors: FAQs for those lucky enough to have terraces, roofdecks and gardens

Is your neighbor driving you nuts-- or worse? Here's what to do

Read this before you buy, rent or sell a noisy apartment

Neighborly nuisances, and how to avoid them



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