BY JAY ROMANO
April 9, 2010
Bright Lights and Thorny Neighbors
Q: Recently, the owners of the building across from my Hell’s Kitchen apartment installed extremely bright spotlights on the outside of their building. Now the lights are shining directly into my apartment. I complained to the building’s management office, and they told me in no uncertain terms to “go get darker shades.” Do I have any legal recourse?
A: “The answer depends on how bright and ‘extreme’ the light is, based on a ‘reasonability’ standard,” said Lior Aldad, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. He said that in a city like New York, where there are bright lights everywhere, “determining what is ‘extreme’ becomes more difficult than deciding such cases in the suburbs.” Mr. Aldad said the writer should notify the building managers in writing and demand that the problem cease immediately. “If the matter is not addressed, then taking into consideration the fact that the light is pointed directly at the writer’s bedroom window and may be extreme, he can start an action for a ‘private nuisance’ in state Supreme Court,” he said.
Under New York law, the necessary elements of a private nuisance action are: substantial interference, unreasonable in character, intentional in origin, caused by a person’s conduct, and interfering with another person’s right to “use and enjoy” his property. The writer can also call 311, the city’s complaint line.