An overheated friend lamented to us over the weekend that he wasn't allowed to set up an air conditioner in his bedroom window, thanks to its position as an exit onto the fire escape (and its status as his bedroom's sole window). We checked into it, and it's true: City regulations specifically stipulate that if you're installing an A/C unit in the window, you should "not block fire escape windows or other exits with the AC unit."
Indeed, this dilemma has been the subject of threads on the Ask NYC reddit page, a New York Times Q&A column, and a thread on Apartment Therapy. If you have two windows that open onto the fire escape, the Times reports, you may be able to get away with a window unit in one of them provided that it doesn't block foot traffic on the fire escape, and the other window is large enough to feasibly be used as an exit.
But if not, you'll be relegated to shopping for portable air-conditioners, which seem to run for $250 and up (options here and here) and take up floor space as the summertime equivalent of a space heater. Consider yourselves warned (and warmed).
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