Condos lose special street claim

Two condominiums adjacent to Franklin Place, a mid-block alley in lower Manhattan, asked that Franklin Place be designated as a fire apparatus access road in order to prohibit parking next to condominiums. The Franklin Place Condominium, joined by the 55 White Street Condominium, filed an article 78 petition seeking to compel the New York City Fire Department to declare Franklin Street a fire apparatus access road and to install “No Parking” signs. Franklin Place is a narrow public alley situated in Tribeca approximately 150 feet west of Broadway, running north-south parallel to Broadway, from White Street to Franklin Street.

The Franklin Place Condominium, located at 5 Franklin Place a/k/a 371 Broadway, is a newly constructed residential apartment building consisting of 20 stories with 52 residential apartments. The 55 White Condominium building, located at 55 White Street, is a residential apartment building located on the corner of Franklin Place and White Street.

The Franklin Place Condominium alleged that its only attended entrance is on Franklin Place. Immediately adjacent to its Franklin Place entrance is a private parking garage for the condominium’s unit owners and residents. The garage’s only means of ingress and egress is on Franklin Place.

The two condominiums on Franklin Place wanted Franklin Place to be a fire apparatus access road in order to have “No Parking” signs placed on Franklin Place. The condominiums alleged that owners and occupants of other buildings on Franklin Place routinely parked vehicles on Franklin Place. The condominiums argued that the parked vehicles cut off vehicular access to Franklin Place from White Street at its northern end and substantially all access from Franklin Street at the southern end, as well as severely limiting access to the garage.

Four nearby building owners joined the proceeding and opposed the designation of Franklin Place as a fire apparatus access road. They argued that the two condominiums were unlawfully seeking to restrict the historic uses of Franklin Place by preventing others from parking on the alley. They also challenged the claim that Franklin Place Condominium’s main entrance was on Franklin Place, stating that the condominium also had an entrance on Broadway.

The Fire Department declined to designate Franklin Place a fire apparatus access road. The two condominiums then filed an article 78 petition to compel the Fire Department to make the designation.

Supreme Court Justice Shlomo S. Hagler ruled against the two condominiums, declared the designation of fire apparatus access roads to be a discretional decision, and declined to order the Fire Department to designate the road.

The Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed, ruling that while the City’s Fire Code defined fire apparatus access roads, the Code left designations to the discretion of the Fire Commissioner. The Appellate Division held that, as a discretionary matter, the court lacked authority to mandate a designation.

Board of Managers of Franklin Place Condominium v. New York City Fire Department, 183 N.Y.S.3d 387 (1st Dep’t 2023).

By: Ross Sandler, Professor and Director for the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School


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