Condo which used former party wall only as a façade wanted former party wall partner to pay for maintenance. Prior to 1927, two tenements along West 61st Street were joined together by a party wall. In 1927, the owner of the building at 211 West 61st Street tore down the tenement and built a seven-story building. The new building incorporated the former party wall as a façade only, the wall itself no longer providing support. In 1934, the owner of the adjacent lot at 205 West 61st Street tore down the tenement on that lot and thereafter used the lot as a parking lot. In 1947, the lot at 205 West 61st Street came into ownership of the New York City Housing Authority which incorporated the lot into Amsterdam Houses. The portion of the NYCHA lot abutting 211 West 61st Street is used by NYCHA as a parking lot and does contain a structure.
In 2013 the owner of the seven story building at 211 West 61st Street sued NYCHA. The owner claimed that the wall was still a party wall and that NYCHA was responsible for maintaining the wall. The wall’s exterior, which was meant to be an interior wall, was in rough condition; it had been subject to the elements for 80 years. The owner of 211 West 61st Street demanded that NYCHA pay half the cost to demolish the wall and rebuild a new wall. The owner estimated that the cost of the project would exceed $600,000.
The Appellate Division, First Department, sided with NYCHA and dismissed the action. Once the wall stopped being used as a party wall, the adjacent owner no longer had the responsibility for its maintenance. A party wall which ceases to serve its purpose of support or mutual benefit ceases to be a party wall. The party wall easement is measured in its extent and duration, by the existence of the necessity for it. When the necessity ceased the rights resulting from it ceased also.
211 West 61st Street Condominium, Inc. v. New York City Housing Auth., 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 00116 (1st Dep’t Jan. 10, 2017) (Attorneys: Christopher M. Slowik, for Condominium; David I. Ferber, Lauren L. Esposito, for NYCHA).
By: Diandra Romero (Diandra is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2017)