Party wall NOV enforced

Owner argued that party wall defects resulted from the neighbor’s demolition. A Department of Buildings inspector observed loose stucco along a parapet and stress cracks along the exterior wall of a brownstone, located at 130 East 35th Street. Buildings issued a notice of violation to the brownstone’s owner Joseph Lipton.

At the hearing, Lipton argued that the adjacent property owner was responsible for repairing the defects, not him, because the wall was a shared party wall and all the defects lay on the neighbor’s side. Lipton also claimed that the neighbor’s actions caused the defects since the neighbor exposed the party wall when, 20 years earlier, the neighbor demolished the original brownstone to make way for a large 18-story apartment building. At that time, according to Lipton, the neighbor failed to permanently protect the newly exposed portion of the wall in violation of an Administrative Code requirement.

The ALJ affirmed the NOV, finding that Lipton failed to prove that the neighbor’s demolition caused the wall’s defects or that the neighbor failed to protect the wall after demolition. Lipton appealed to the Environmental Control Board.

The Board affirmed, finding that party wall owners are jointly responsible for the maintenance of a shared party wall unless they agree otherwise. Due to this, it is irrelevant which side of the wall has defects. The Board also found that the Administrative Code requires a party, whose construction exposes an adjoining wall, to leave the wall permanently protected from the elements. It does not, the Board continued, require the party to maintain the wall in a safe condition indefinitely. Lipton failed to provide evidence showing the neighbor’s failure to take steps to protect the wall right after demolition.

NYC v. Lipton, ECB Appeal No. 43062 (March 26, 2009). CITYADMIN


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