Balconies, NYC Zoning, Help!

Pertinent information:
-I live in NYC and recently renewed my lease for another year.
-Since renewing my lease, the building next door (that has been under construction for a while) added a third level complete with a huge balcony
-That balcony is directly outside of my window (in a building owned by a different landlord)
-Anyone living there can hang out right outside my window. They can see in, I can see them, and any conversations they have will be right in my ear.

I now have a partially blocked view, and more importantly I’ve lost the sense of privacy I first had in this apartment. My question is whether or not there’s anything I can do to force the next door building to put up a physical separation between me and my new neighbors (a wall of some sort on my side of their balcony. I’ll certainly talk to the new tenants when I get a chance, but I’d really like to know if there’s a legal route I can take.

In case is matters, the balcony is on my next door neighbor’s apartment. It’s kind of catty corner from me, not across the street. I can take a picture from my window if I need to.

From what I’ve heard of NYC landlords, it’s really hard for rent-paying tenants to get them to make changes. The chance of them doing so at the request of a stranger (tenant in a neighboring, competing building) is even more miniscule.

No idea about your legal options.

P.S. It’s really hard to figure out the layout from your description. If their balcony adjoins yours, wouldn’t it work just as well if you put up a wall or screen on that side of your balcony?

I wonder if my landlord has any authority? The construction significantly lowers the value of the property I’m in.

I’ll try to describe the layout again -if it’s still unclear I’ll just take a photo.

The balcony in question belongs to my next door neighbor (to my left). My room is in the back of my building. We do not have a balcony. Their balcony extends out from the back of their building by about 20 ft. Unlike most balconies that aren’t as wide as the building frame, this one extends all the way out to either side. The result is that someone standing in directly the middle of their balcony is less than 10 ft from my window. Someone standing by the right-side rail is less than 2 ft away. Unless I stand in the absolute corner of my room, I can always see at least half of their balcony through my window.

I think I understand the layout - but I suspect it’s not violating any laws , and certainly not any related to your privacy. If I understand the layout properly, it doesn’t seem any different than if your room was in the back of your building on the first floor and the neighboring building’s yard was was two feet from your window.

I didn’t know if the circumstances were different because it’s a balcony on the third floor. I know there are zoning laws that have to do specifically with balconies and also with obstructing the view of the skyline. Unfortunately, I can seem to find any of this information with Google.

Is your building stabilized? If yes, and most apartment building are other than co-ops, the Rent Guidelines Board suggests, that possibly what happened to you could be considered a “reduction in services” and entitle you to a reduction in rent (see here). Normally, RiS applies to things like not repairing a broken elevator, so this is a bit of a long shot. RGB suggests calling a state agency, Dept of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR) at this number to find out more: 718-739-6400

But before I bothered, I’d just ask your landlord for a privacy screen.

I’d be wary of claiming you “know” anything about the Zoning Resolution, very few people who don’t work for Buildings, City Planning, or Board of Standards & Appeals, do. But you can read it here in all its glory:

This has some information, but if you live one of the zones described, it seems like the only possible issue is if the balcony extends more than 50% of the width of the building, not how close the balcony is to your window. I’m fairly certain that this doesn’t cover all zones, because know there are neighborhoods where second and third story porches commonly extend the width of the building. I’ve seen newspaper articles about one building obstructing the view of another, but they usually involve the owner of building A opposing a zoning variance requested by the owner of building B because the zoning variance will decrease the value of building A.

Thank you both for the links. I’ll read through those later tonight when I get a chance.

I don’t think a privacy screen will work on my end, since I don’t have a balcony. I’m pretty sure it would need to go up on my neighbor’s balcony. I just doubt that they’ll be willing to spend the $100+ it costs. Putting one up would also obstruct their view of the skyline. That being said, I’ll keep it in mind.

Ok. I read through the zoning laws as best I could. I definitely got caught up in some of the wording (I regularly read through Congressional bills, but this is just DENSE). This seems to be the pertinent section of the law:

By my reading, my neighbor’s building may be in violation of the last article (f) and possibly article (d). Assuming that I am correct, what is my next legal step? My first thought is to call 311, NYC’s information and public service line. Is getting in touch with my landlord’s neighbor a better way to handle it? I’ve never been in this situation before.

No, I think this is doing it wrong. What you want to do is establish window dominance. (I’m not joking.) Having lived in NYC for many years, I couldn’t stand having my shades closed like so many others in that city do. So I left my shades open- all of them, all of the time. Other people began to keep theirs closed and I only very rarely saw anyone else and never once made eye contact. If you are worried about the distance and view so will the new tenants and you need to assert your window dominance before they move in. Also use your balcony as often as possible or randomly hang things out the window or be close to the window. I promise you that you will be happy with the outcome (seriously).

Good luck with that…
Frankly, once the building is up there’s not much you can do.

And even if you had started complaining while the building was under construction, you probably wouldn’t have had any luck.

I am the president of a co-op apartment building and there has been a lot of development on my block. I pored over the building codes and complained about all of them … and I didn’t even manage to slow them down. The rules you are quoting seem to only apply to the size and layout of the new balcony, not to its proximity to anything else. The setback rules are particularly confusing, there is a building next door to me that I could swear doesn’t meet the R6 zoning setback rules but I have been assured by real estate professionals that it does.

Also. a terrace and a balcony are not the same, if there’s no overhang the sizing rules are different. New construction impacts home values all the time in the city by blocking views…it’s something that buyers need to be aware of. for example, anyone looking at the layout of my building would realize that the north side view is just waiting to be obstructed, the building on the other side of the empty lot next door is designed so another building can go up next to it , there are no windows on its long south wall. I recommend the balcony dominance strategy.

Also, periodically urinate in the corners of your balcony.