Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: My neighbor’s tree is throwing shade on my apartment. Can I trim it?

If you're handy with a chainsaw, you could trim the offending branches that are on your property, but you may start a feud, especially if you harm the tree somehow.

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Question:

My neighbor’s tree is blocking my apartment’s natural light. What can I do about it? Signed, Sunless in the City

Answer:

Dear Sunless,

If there are branches that are extending onto your property, you could go ahead and trim those but think about it first: You may be kicking off a feud. After all, you could be damaging your neighbor’s property if something were to happen to the tree.

Best to try talking first. You should approach your neighbor and point out that their tree is blocking light into your living space. Ask them to prune the tree. If they are not willing to do that, let your neighbor know that you plan to hire a professional tree trimming service to trim the branches on your side of the property line—they may decide to split the cost with you, and do their side of the tree, especially if money is the issue. (Tree trimming is indeed expensive!)

As crazy as our beloved city is, we still have the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of light. One cannot infringe on another person’s space. Someone would not be allowed to block your driveway or put personal items on your stoop. 

But on the other hand, nature doesn’t always abide by grids and property lines, so show some flexibility. Besides, you may miss that shade when the dog days of summer roll around and your AC causes your electricity bill to skyrocket.

Ms. Demeanor


Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.