Neighbors

The ongoing chaos around Trump buildings has us wondering: What can you do when your neighbor attracts controversy—and crowds?

Protestors outside Ivanka Trump's Park Avenue condo in early January.

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In a city teeming with boldface names, having a famous neighbor who lures attention isn't all that unusual. But what if that neighbor is a divisive figure, say a politician—or the relative of one—who has raised the ire of locals and visitors alike? Last Thursday, a group of New Yorkers took part in an action they dubbed the "Dump Trump Crawl," wending their way among several of Manhattan's Trump-owned and branded buildings--starting with the Park Avenue condo building that is home to Ivanka Trump and husband Jared—to express their displeasure with the president-elect.

The demonstration was one of many that have taken place since the presidential election. In November, for instance, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito led a protest march from Queens to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, reports the New York Post. There are many more protests to come—Gothamist has a list of more than a dozen of ways for New Yorkers to vent their post-election frustrations, including marches, exhibitions, workshops, and more this month alone. 

NYC buildings with the Trump name emblazoned on them are serving as a natural gathering point for protestors, as well as the press and security. And New Yorkers are already well-acquainted with the hefty price tag that will accompany the amped-up NYPD presence around the president-elect's residence (the city estimated it will add up to $35 million by the date of the inauguration, the New York Times reports.)

Beyond the burden Trump's presence—and the security it requires—places on New York, the residents who live in Trump properties are also facing a major nuisance. In fact, a writer for Forbes recently wondered whether Trump Tower is the worst address in America, noting that to access their own homes, residents must pass through a media circus and security gauntlet. 

A president residing in NYC makes the city a bigger-than-usual target for attention, demonstrations, and most worryingly, terrorism. But whether you live in a Trump building or not, there are hassles associated with the presence of A-list celebrities, especially notorious ones, in your building. What can you do if you have a neighbor whose very existence is creating problems right outside your front door? 

Do residents have recourse?

For condo owners (like those who live in Ivanka Trump's building), John Walkup of real estate analytics site Urban Digs says options are quite limited when it comes to legal recourse. "When there's an annoyance outside the building, you can ask management to enforce the property line, but that's about it," he says. ""It's not like a noisy neighbor—it's something outside the building."

This is especially true in Trump buildings managed by Trump's company. "You can complain to management, but he is the management," says Walkup. 

Leonard Steinberg, president of Compass, agrees that there's little Trump Tower residents can do to minimize the hassle, other than move. "The Trump thing is unusual: It's not just his residence, but his residence while he is president," he says. "No one's going to be evicting him, and I don't see how any residents could sue him because there's a crowd in front of the building." 

Prevention may be the best option—if you're in a co-op

As New York magazine points out, having a neighbor who is merely famous (rather than the leader of a nation) can still be a huge headache; paparazzi are only the beginning of your potential troubles when a celebrity shares your building. This is precisely why many buyers in NYC still opt for co-ops, Steinberg says. (It bears mention that United States Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who lives in a Park Slope co-op, also has seen his share of demonstrators standing outside his building to exhort him to push back against Trump initiatives.)

"One of the reasons to buy in a co-op is that boards are wary of [celebrity residents]. A lot of big stars experience board turndowns because of fears of drawing too much attention to the building," he explains. "But in a condo, it's extremely difficult. You cannot discriminate against someone because they're famous or notorious: Everyone just has to adapt to their presence." 

Co-op owners have more power even in the case of a resident who becomes a problem after moving in. "The co-op would need to start an action to revoke the proprietary lease," explains Neil Garfinkel, an attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP and broker counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). 

Brick previously broke down how to kick a neighbor out of your co-op: The leases for these kinds of apartments include a clause that allows the board to vote to revoke a resident's shares for "objectionable behavior." Per Habitat, in such a situation the board would have to sue to throw out the shareholder and provide evidence of his or her misconduct. 

What to learn from Bernie Madoff's neighbors  

The co-op board at 133 East 64th Street found itself weighing such a decision back in 2009, the New York Times reported: One of the building's tenants was Bernie Madoff, and after his disastrous Ponzi scheme was made public, he was placed under house arrest. Once the press set up camp outside the property, the board began considering its options for throwing him out because, per the paper, "house arrest for someone like Mr. Madoff, a possible security risk, was highly inappropriate within a co-op building, especially one with young children."

The former investment advisor also sent all his neighbors a letter of apology, which apparently didn't ease their fears about the security risks that came with having a mob just outside. 

But if your board doesn't agree to go as far as eviction proceedings (and it doesn't appear as if Madoff's co-op was able to oust him) and the neighbor hasn't really done anything quantifyingly objectionable, or you're in a condo, you might have to just endure. Steinberg notes that your quality of life could vary significantly depending on who your celebrity neighbor is. "There have been celebrities who work with the building to create additional security and they pay for it. Some are less cooperative, and some don't care, and that can be a real nightmare," he says.

It helps to keep some perspective on the probable risks associated with famous residents. Many disturbances are temporary and will blow over—and the presence of press isn't the end of the world, Steinberg says: "Paparazzi with cameras is not a big deal. It's manageable. Plus, there's not much you can do legally."

 

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