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Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

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Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:17 am

I live in a ground floor apartment facing a courtyard in the back. There are two stores in the front of my building, and the apartment across from me, also facing the courtyard, has recently become vacant. I have heard that my landlord plans on connecting this empty apartment to the store in front of it--an ice cream shop--and then putting in a door to the courtyard so they can have outdoor tables in the courtyard.

Since this, if it really happens, would make my life completely miserable, I'm wondering if it's legal for him to do that or if there isn't some law against putting commercial outdoor space like that right up against residential space. Does anyone have any information about this? Any help anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:34 am

The first thing I would do is check the Certificate of Occupancy for the building. Depending on your location, the zoning district and other factors, it might not be legal for the stores and residential apartment to co-exist on the same floor. I've always heard that apartments had to be on higher floors than any commercial usage. In some buildings, you might see medical and dental offices doing that, but it might be an exception. That's what I've heard, but could be wrong, so I'd check with the COO and also call City Planning.

Get the Block and Lot numbers for your building and look it up on BIS at http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/bsqpm01.jsp

Your local community board and/or city council person's office should be able to help you walk through all this.

Word of warning: it's possible your apartment might be illegal, and that might have ramifications.

If they were to change the other real apartment from residential to retail, they would have to apply for and receive a change to the COO.

Also check to see if units in your building should be rent stab. (if there are 6 or more units). If it is rent stab, the change of use in the courtyard might be considered a reduction in service. That might depend on how the courtyard is being used now. Is it a quiet place that permits sitting? That would be an amenity for tenants.

There are certainly laws on use of outdoor space in front of buildings on local sidewalks - i.e., sidewalk cafes. But I don't know if there are similar restrictions on use of interior courtyards.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:43 pm

Thanks so much for your help.

My apartment, as well as a few others in the building, are rent stabilized.

I found the building on the DOB site, but when I clicked to see the COO it said THERE ARE NO CERTIFICATES OF OCCUPANCY ON FILE FOR THIS ADDRESS. Not sure what that means.

Looking in the permits section, though, there was nothing there to indicate that he has applied to do work on that downstairs apartment, which is reassuring. For now I guess I will continue to watch and see if he applies for that permit--unless you have some other advice for me. My thanks again.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:13 pm

Many buildings don't have COO's. I've seen references that any building built prior to 1938-39 doesn't need one. But OTOH, I've seen COO's from the 1920's. So I'm not sure of those rules. See https://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/hom ... pancy.page

However, some older pre-1939 buildings would be required to obtain a COO when and if they make changes of use to the building. For example, if an older building decides to install a laundry in the basement in an area that previously had been a storeroom, in that case a new (initial) COO would be required.

So if you change the use from residential to commercial, a COO is required.

It might also depend on the district if there's a requirement for a Certificate of No Harassment (CONH), that must be issued when a landlord makes an "Alteration A" to the building, An "Alt A" is usually a change of use to an area of the building. An "Alt B" can occur if other changes happen, i.e., putting up a new interior wall, or tearing one down, as long as the use of the area stays the same. Adding floors or extensions to a building would fall under Alt A.

HPD would be the agency that would issue a CONH. If harassment has occurred in the building, there are penalties the LL must deal with in order to make the desired changes. See https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/owners/ce ... sment.page

The CONH requirements depend on the local zoning district. Your local community board would have that information. Many of the more recent rezonings around town have added CONH requirements. Also, SRO Hotels have their own CONH requirements.

If the use of the courtyard has been recreational, the removal from an area for tenants to one for commercial customers would be - in my opinion - a reduction in required services for RS tenants.

BTW, as what you describe would impact all tenants, perhaps it's time for your building to organize a tenants association to watch what goes on. However, I would not antagonize the owner unless and until you have some proof of what's going on.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:05 pm

I just posted a new article on COO. See here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=13662
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:31 pm

All very helpful. Thanks again!
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:04 am

Sorry for starting a new thread for this.

The latest on my situation is that the apartment across the hallway from me--the only other one which also looks out on my back courtyard--has just been renovated. So far it has not been attached to the restaurant facing the front of my building as I'd feared. However, unbeknownst to me until now, the landlord changed one of its windows into a door, giving that apartment the implied right to use that outdoor space.

Did he have the right to do this? I fear that my life is about to become a nightmare once the place is rented and some idiot starts throwing parties out there right outside my windows. Is there anything I can do?

Thank you for any help you could give me in this matter.

I went on the DOB site and saw no permit filed for the renovation or anything.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:43 am

If, up to now, neither apt. had direct use of the rear courtyard, who did have access and how did they obtain access? If you had access for recreational use, and if that can be documented in the lease or elsewhere, the LL can't take that away from you; it would be a decrease in services and you can get a rent freeze from DHCR.

Did you check with the Dept. of Buildings to see if there was an approved permit for the work to convert the window into a door? Do you know if a door has been created to connect the restaurant with the renovated apartment? For any work like that, if there are no permits, you should lodge a complaint with 311.

The restaurant, is it a sit-down type restaurant, fast food, or what? Do they serve alcohol? If they do serve alcohol, they would need an additional permits from the State Liquor Authority to serve in the courtyard if they extend their dining area. You can oppose those permits. Contact your local community board to get a copy each month of the on-premises liquor applications that have been filed. The community board can approve or disapprove the applications (recommendations, not binding) and the SLA would have to issues a final approval. There are usually meetings where this comes up at the community board. If it's a noisy place, they might be receptive to your objection. Even if not, it's worth a try, especially if it's a reduction in services.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:56 am

Thank you for your quick response!

As I stated, the apartment has only just been renovated. I poked my head in because the door was unlocked.

There is still no access in that apartment to the restaurant in front, which is just an ice cream parlor at this point. So for now I'm not worried about them putting tables out there.

The contractor did change one of the windows looking out onto the courtyard into a door, though, so I am now worried that whoever moves in will assume the entire outdoor space--most of which faces my larger apartment--belongs to them.

Up until now the only legitimate access to the courtyard--unless you climbed out a window--was from the basement.

I went on the DOB site and saw the listed building permits for this building. There were a few recent ones for renovating upstairs apartments, but nothing at all for this one across from mine. Was this enough, or should I also call them?

My thanks again.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:28 am

Even if access was from the basement only, what was the courtyard used for? Passive recreation? Storage of trash and building equipment? Other?

I would call 311. Of course understand the LL might get mad at you. Converting a window into a door is a major alteration and requires a permit.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:40 am

I called in a complaint to 311.

As far as I know, before this the space wasn't used for anything. The upstairs neighbors, since moved away, used to climb down the fire escape and grow vegetables out there.

Is there anything else I can do? The new tenant is going to move in and what will I do then? Have a fight with them when they try to turn the space into their patio?
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:48 am

DOB takes a long time to inspect, but keep at it. Also ... check to see if the building has a Certificate of Occupancy listed on the DOB site and see what that says.

Here's the rub. Unless there's a way to stop a new residential neighbor from using the area. the LL might be in his rights to include access to the area - even exclusive access - to a new tenant.

If you can show DHCR that you (and all the tenants) also have a claim of access, that might help. You can fight a liquor license, but probably not an ice cream store.

Is the LL reasonable? You can ask just to see what are their intentions. Are there others in the building who might be worried about noise coming from the area?

Maybe a new tenant - even with access - might be content to read books and plant carrots. Would that be acceptable?
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Fri Aug 09, 2019 12:25 pm

I already checked. For whatever reason there is no COO listed. It says: There are no certificates of occupancy on file for this address.

The LL desperately wants me to move out because I pay so little rent.

Would there be any advantage to me consulting a lawyer at this point?
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:09 pm

Can you send us the BIN number by Private Mail? On the DOB site, on the top right, look for the thick blue line and there is a BIN number.

Alternately the URL of the page should have the BIN embedded in it.

A lawyer? I don't see why. Actually in my experience tenant attorneys - even the good ones - don't know DOB issues or zoning rules. The LL isn't taking you to court, is he? Do you plan on taking him to court? Absent that, talking to lawyers is probably premature.

I understand your concerns, but I just don't see a way to stop it.
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Re: Restaurant Seating in Courtyard Outside Apartment

Postby InBrooklyn » Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:01 pm

Have been trying to send it through the "Contact TenantNet" page but can't get past the "Captcha" test. I get the message: "Could not read CAPTCHA token file. Try again."

Is there a different way I can send it to you? Thank you.
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