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Blocked fire escape, timid LL

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Blocked fire escape, timid LL

Postby sfumato » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:04 pm

I've been lurking these boards since I moved to NYC a year ago, from a region of the country where there are strong tenant rights ordinances and relationships with your LL are personable. Now I need your help to resolve a problem.

I'm subleasing an apartment on the top floor of a six-story, ~60-unit co-op in Brooklyn. Last week, I noticed someone on the fourth floor has installed an A/C in their fire escape window, which clearly blocks my egress should the worst happen.

I've tried to make contact with the offending tenants, to no avail (they won't answer their door).

I then contacted my super, a great (and overworked) guy, who told me that the NYFD has already been by: they cited the offending tenants and forcibly removed the A/C from the window, but the tenants reinstalled it. The super now seems resigned to the situation.

So I contacted my LL (a nice Hispanic lady who originally bought the place to move her parents up from Mexico, but health issues foiled that plan, hence my two-year sublease). She is very reticent to contact the management company because she's gotten racist vibes off of them. (She's the first Hispanic to own in this building.)

Then I called management myself, who told me they were aware of the problem and taking care of it, and that it was "ridiculous" to call 311 about it. I, too, have had nothing but disrespectful interactions with management in the past, and there are ongoing building issues (leaky roof and pipes) to which they have been dismissive.

Nonetheless, I called 311 and got transferred to the NYFD fire prevention hotline. Left a message, heard nothing back. I followed up with a mailed complaint to the NYFD, using the appropriate form, including pictures (from street-level and from the fire escape landing) illustrating the A/C's placement and how it blocks egress.

Normally, I am a relatively easygoing tenant, but this is a potentially life-threatening situation. What are my next steps if nothing is done? Do I have a Warranty of Habitability claim? From my research, it would seem that I could institute proceedings against the LL — but this is a building situation, as the violation isn't occurring inside my apartment, and thus the LL wouldn't seem to have much recourse here.

Any advice you might be able to provide would be greatly appreciated....
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:31 pm

Is this AC really blocking egress for those that might need to use the fire escape, or it is projecting a bit - but not too much? I have seen both situations.

I believe from a legal viewpoint, the standing is with your landlord (the owner of the coop) has the right to sue the board of the coop. I would not say that you have such a right necessarily. In this sort of situation, the board should be putting a lot of pressure on the offending tenant/owner.

However, you can make noise, and it appears you have done so. Plus you might not want to be so noisy that you end up getting the boot. Would not be the first time.

Welcome to the age of Bloomberg/Quinn. DOB and 311 are notorious for ignoring safety issues.

Have you gone to your local firehouse? They can stop by and read the riot act to the owner(s).
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Postby sfumato » Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:32 pm

Thanks for your response! It sounds like I am screwed and should just hope there is no fire in this building. I am highly doubtful that the LL will attempt to press the issue.

There is no real co-op board to speak of: it apparently meets very infrequently and is constituted primarily of members of the management company. My "meeting" with the board on taking the sublet involved meeting with primary management company contact.

You tell me if you think the A/C blocks easy transit down the fire escape:

Image
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:38 pm

That is something to be worried about. I have seen others that are a lot less obtrusive, but this could be an impediment. in something like this, the squeaky wheel gets heard.
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Postby Emeraldstar » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:15 pm

Hi All
SF looks narrow to me & the FDNY would say so.....
As far as I'm concerned you have done all the right approaches so give it a couple of days. If all else fails or if it's removed and then reinstalled for yet another time, you can send an email & pics direct to Blumberg's office. Believe me it gets attention. Between myself & neighbors 9, 311 calls were ignored so I emailed direct and within 24 hrs. it was responded too with 3 city agencies coordinated/dispatched & issue eliminated never to return again. Also the corospondence in my mail box from those one step next to God for future assist, are suitable for framing :lol: We too had a potiential life & death but not for the same reason.
Come to think of it I would take dated pics right after removal for future if needed. With some people fines are just the cost of living :roll:
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Postby sfumato » Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:51 am

These are all great ideas. I'll stay on it, but I suspect that fall will arrive and then it'll become a moot point...till next spring.
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Postby Emeraldstar » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:00 pm

Hi All
SF egress/safety is never a moot point. Good luck :wink:
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Postby ronin » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:05 pm

Wow. Did Emeraldstar really say something positive about Bloom-borg?
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Postby Emeraldstar » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:14 pm

Hi All
:lol: Ronin....nope.... Mailed riot act on crappy 311's .... my tax $ pay saleries they work for me....disgraceful death issue ignored...etc.
True story... you can pm on what morphed me into "Who's afraid of VW"

SF. Let him have it.....loudly
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Postby sfumato » Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:27 am

An update: I called 311 last wk and got transferred to a specialist. They took a ton of info and then sent me an e-mail so I could check on the complaint. Building inspector came by twice, tenants with the A/C wouldn't answer the door. But since the A/C is clearly visible from the street, he hit 'em with an ECB violation.

They've refused to budge, so I called 311 again today and filed another complaint. I'm going to do this every week till the A/C comes out the window.

My super and landlord both have my back, but they know that unless the management company contacts the apt's actual owner or takes action on their own this is likely to continue. Super suggested that perhaps management will pay the violations on behalf of the tenant and let them keep the A/C...which would be a whole 'nother can of worms, yeah.
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Postby TenantNet » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:02 pm

The fine will go to the LL, so he will be mad at the tenants with the AC, or with you. Since it's a coop the fine should go to the owner of the unit with the AC.
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Postby Emeraldstar » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:06 pm

Hi All
SF remain neutral communicating with super & LL & don't fall into their bs. They know the law & LL should have been able to get cooperation when first installed/aware. They might not want to install brackets for unit in another window if that's an option.
Seems to me a stupid/minipulative thing to tell you LL may pay & allow. Not according to your pic....LL/tenant has to comply.
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