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Excessive exterior lighting

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Excessive exterior lighting

Postby nycman » Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:16 pm

The landlord across my street just installed new exterior lights. They replaced the older lights hat pointed downward and were shielded with much brighter lights that are pointing out from the building and are unshielded. The effect is akin to a car with its high beams engaged directly at my apartment window. I've asked the landlord to point the lights downward to no effect. What can do about this issue?
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:59 pm

The building across the street with the lights ... is it 100% residential, or is it offices, or does it have any commercial stores on the ground or lower floors?
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby nycman » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:23 pm

It's a 100% residential building.
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:30 pm

So are the lights what you might see on a typical residential building ... a few exterior wall sconces -- something like this?

I'm trying to get a sense of what you are dealing with. Are the lights mounted near the front door of the building, or on a higher floor or the roof?
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby nycman » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:39 pm

I would say they were something like this. However, I think they are higher than 90 watt, given how bright they are. There are six lights mounted about a foot below the second floor windows of the building.
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:54 pm

In terms of legality, I'm not sure. It's not a LL/T issue unless people in that building object. I don't think the fixture itself is illegal, but it might depend on where it is mounted and how high it is. The Housing Maintenance Code has rules on the minimum brightness. All buildings are required to have illumination of the front door and street number. See http://tenant.net/Other_Laws/HMC/sub2/art10.html (at the bottom)

However the situation might be described as a public nuisance, a more or less catchall term, and which an be interpreted many ways. And understand, like noise, what is too bright for one person may be normal for another person.

One source tells us this: Public nuisance claims may only be brought by the Government under the Nuisance Abatement Law. You are describing a private nuisance."

Also:

A private nuisance is a nuisance that “threatens one person or a relatively few, an essential feature being an interference with the use or enjoyment of land.” Copart Industries, Inc. v. Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc., 41 N.Y.2d 564, 578 (1977) (internal citations omitted). The elements of a private nuisance cause of action are: “(1) an interference substantial in nature, (2) intentional in origin, (3) unreasonable in character, (4) with a person’s property right to use and enjoy land, (5) caused by another's conduct in acting or failure to act.” Id. at 570.

“In determining whether a defendant's use of property is a nuisance, the court must weigh the gravity of the harm to plaintiff against the utility and necessity for defendant’s conduct.” Stanley v. Amalithone Realty, Inc., 31 Misc.3d 995, 1002 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County 2011) (internal citations omitted).


But going that route might end up with issues over standing. Renters might not have legal standing to sue, where coop or condo owners might have that right. A lawyer can expound on that.

There is also a light pollution law:
http://www.sdalighting.com/blog/new-yor ... -big-deal/

Also see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/real ... light.html

I asked about the commercial nature, if any, as businesses can be pressured in a variety of ways to be good neighbors. Years ago we persuaded a bar to turn off a bright light mounted on a sixth floor rooftop that illuminated a number of blocks on a wide avenue. Part of the leverage is that we could have made a huge fuss about the bar's liquor license.

What I can suggest is that you contact your local community board and local elected officials and perhaps they can pressure the owner to adjust the brightness or add barn doors (Google "lighting barn doors") to the lights so the spillover won't get to your building. Most lights can be focused to illuminate the sidewalk (the presumed intent) and avoid adverse impact on the neighbors.

And of course lodge complaints with 311 (not that 311 is actually useful, but it will document the complaint). And of course the more tenants complaining, the better.
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby nycman » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:39 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough reply.

I tried to file a report with the DEP through 311. They do not accept issues having to do with residential lighting and instead instruct you to resolve the issue with the property owner.

I'm going to consult with a lawyer next.
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby BubbaJoe123 » Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:14 am

I would contact your City Councilmember's office. This is the sort of issue with which they can be helpful. Is it just your apartment that's having this problem, or do you know of others in your building who are affected as well? If you can get several people contacting the Councilmember, that can help.

This may not be relevant, since the lights are on the building itself, but a new building near me needed community board approval to put in small lights in the curbside planters, so the community board might be another place to try.
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby nycman » Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:56 pm

Thanks BubbaJoe123, I have also contacted my City Councilmember, I haven't heard back from them, but I do know a few other people in the building think the new lights are too much too. I will encourage them to contact him as well.

The regulations speak to needing a minimum # of lights at a certain wattage every x feed of building frontage. So I do know that they are required to have lighting. There doesn't appear to be anything that modulates the maximum, however.
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Re: Excessive exterior lighting

Postby nycman » Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:56 pm

I should add, that I also contacted the property owner. No response from them, of course.
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