In NYC, quality-of-life complaints soaring, along with litigation

Shoddy construction and the economy is a recipe for unhappy neighbors.

How long should New Yorkers be forced to suffer a particularly loud (or uniquely odorous) neighbor?

For co-op and condo dwellers, the answer increasingly seems to be “not very long.” Over the past several years, attorneys and building managers say they’ve seen a noticeable uptick in the number of disputes between neighbors in New York City buildings, especially when it comes to noise and smell. As a result, condo and co-op boards are turning to attorneys with greater frequency, leading to higher legal fees and spikes in maintenance and common charges.

Aaron Shmulewitz, an attorney at Manhattan law firm Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, says the number of neighbor-versus-neighbor, quality-of-life complaints he’s dealing with at co-ops and condos has doubled over the past several years.

Experts point to a number of reasons for the increase in disputes. The first is financial; people who purchased or refinanced at the peak of the market are sitting on assets that are not worth what they originally paid, Shmulewitz notes. That, combined with layoffs or financial pressures, sometimes causes frustration to spill over into neighborly disputes.

Some credence to that argument can be found in the city’s 311 data: Both noise and odor complaints peaked in 2009, at the height of the economic downturn in Manhattan, according to data from the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. In 2009, some 251,000 311 calls were complaints about noise, compared to 203,000 in 2011.

Another factor is shoddy or rushed work by developers during the real estate boom, leading to ill-conceived floor plans and units that allow noise and smell to travel easily from one apartment to another.

Ron Bielinski is a principal at Manhattan-based forensic architectural and engineering firm Erwin & Bielinski, which deals with noise and odor migration. He says he has seen a steady increase in work over the last five years.

Noise troubleshooter Alan Fierstein, founder and president of Acoustilog, says his workload has steadily increased since 2006, when new developments were constructed quickly — often at the expense of proper structural design. “I don’t know if people are getting more sensitive,” Fierstein says. “But they have more things to complain about.”

The true cost of noisy neighbors

Beyond the intangibles of tension between neighbors, disputes can also result in higher maintenance and common charges for a building’s tenants. Sound testing, for example, usually costs between $5,000 and $10,000 — an expense usually shouldered by the co-op or condo board. If a case goes to litigation, legal fees typically start at around $50,000 and can easily run into the six figures. Buildings often budget around $10,000 to $20,000 per year for legal fees — and if those fees suddenly jump to $100,000, the money usually comes from residents’ pocketbooks.


Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…


Cleavage complaint: Disneyland staffer orders curvy mom to…

A curvy mom-of-three says she filed a formal complaint after staff at Disneyland Resort in California ordered her to cover up her boobs. Melissa Behnken,…


Canadian charged in 'Heartbleed' attack on tax agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him in connection with exploiting the "Heartbleed" bug to steal taxpayer data from…


Every dog has his day in court, in…

(Reuters) - Call him juror K-9.A computer glitch is likely to blame for a summons that called a German Shepherd to report for jury duty,…


‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'


Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Going Out

Tasty chicken and waffles in NYC

Try some soul food goodness around the city.


'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…


Knicks wrap up season with win over Raptors

The Knicks wrapped up their season as it began — undermanned — but that still didn’t deter them from ending it the right way.


Adam Warren closes out doubleheader sweep for Yankees

Adam Warren navigated a tricky ninth inning earn the Yankees a 2-0 victory over the Cubs.


Marc Staal healthy, eager to contribute to Rangers…

Marc Staal remembers the feeling of helplessness watching his teammates compete for hockey’s ultimate prize and being unable to contribute.


2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version


This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…


This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…


Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.


5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.