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Can I Stop My Neighbor From Building an Intrusive Balcony?

Category: Finance,Real Estate

Q: We recently purchased a co-op in an Upper West Side brownstone with a large living room window overlooking our building’s garden. Now the owners of the abutting apartment in the neighboring brownstone are building a glass balcony off their master bedroom that will obstruct our view and dim our light. Worse, anyone standing on the balcony could peer directly into our living room. The owner claims to have the proper permits. Is there anything we can legally do to stop or alter these plans?

A: Homeowners can’t just build any size balcony off the side of a building. They must follow the city’s building and zoning codes, which set guidelines for the size and location of balconies in residential areas, as well as rights to light and air. If the balcony in question complies with city rules, you’ll have to live with it. But you won’t know unless you check.

Hire an architect to determine if the structure violates your access to light and air. The architect could also pull the permits, applications and possibly the design plans from the Department of Buildings to check for other violations.

If the architect finds that the balcony’s design encroaches on your building’s property, poses a safety hazard or affects the habitability of your apartment by diminishing your access to light and air, your co-op board should address the issue on your behalf, according to Scott S. Greenspun, a real estate lawyer and a principal at the Manhattan law firm Braverman Greenspun.

If the balcony does not compromise the co-op in some way, you will have to contest the project on your own, assuming you find other code violations.

“If it’s not affecting the health and safety of the building’s residents, then it’s on you to deal with it,” Mr. Greenspun said.

Approach the neighbor with your findings and insist that they amend their design to comply with city rules. If they refuse to make modifications, you could bring the grievance to the city by calling 311 or the Buildings Department. You may also be able to pursue remedies with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

If the city does not side with you, and you’ve exhausted all your avenues of complaint, you could appeal the decision in New York State Supreme Court.

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