The people on the ground floor of the adjacent building have been using their fire pit frequently, which means lots of wood smoke coming in through my backyard-facing windows. I'm also a little worried about fire safety. Is it legal to have a fire pit or an open flame in NYC backyards?
The answer to this one is straightforward, according to our experts: No, fire pits are not in any way legal to have in a New York City backyard, and you should feel free to report your neighbors before they fill up your apartment with any more smoke.
While certain types of grills are allowed for barbecueing (more details on that here), fire pits or open fires are strictly a no-go. Per the New York City fire code, open fires are prohibited, and "portable outdoor fire pits that burn wood or other solid fuel (such as manufactured firelogs)" are considered to be open fires. All of which means that a fire pit is beholden to the same rules and regulations as an "open fire," and is therefore prohibited for city dwellers.
Of course, as you know firsthand, that doesn't necessarily stop people from starting their own backyard bonfires, and in a 2013 New York Times trend piece on their growing popularity with Brooklynites, Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport told the paper: "Everything is legal in New York until someone complains. That’s the reality." Meaning, then, that it's probably up to you to send your neighbor's fire-starting habits up in smoke.
In this case, unless your neighbor's next fire spreads and becomes dangerous, your best bet is to call in a complaint to the Fire Department's non-emergency dispatch numbers (you can find the right number for your borough here), and they should send someone by to tell your neighbors to douse their flames—for good.
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