Noise Complaint: The Bar Downstairs Blasts Music All Night!

When the business on the ground floor of your building answers to the co-op board, you have more power than it might seem.

Noise Complaint: The Bar Downstairs Blasts Music All Night!

Credit…Nadia Pillon

Noise Complaint: The Bar Downstairs Blasts Music All Night!

Q: After moving into a fourth-floor apartment in a Washington Heights co-op, we discovered that the innocuous-looking bar on the ground floor turns into a raging nightclub from midnight until 4 a.m. Nothing drowns out the bass — not ear plugs, not white-noise machines, not even the soundproof windows we installed. We’ve complained repeatedly to management, which tells us they are “sending notice,” but nothing changes. The board president recently said nothing could be done. But the bar is a tenant of the co-op. Doesn’t the board have a say over its tenant’s behavior?

A: The co-op board has power over its commercial tenant, and could force the bar to lower the volume. So you need the board to advocate for you.

However, the board might be reluctant to alienate a commercial tenant that generates income for the building if only one person is complaining. So find other unhappy shareholders. If you’re miserable on the fourth floor, imagine how loud it must be on the second. You and your neighbors should write letters to the board and managing agent insisting that the problem be addressed.

The board should hire a noise consultant to determine whether the sound violates the city noise code, which prohibits excessive music from businesses. Even if the noise is legal, the disruption could still be a nuisance and in violation of the commercial lease.

The board could threaten the bar with eviction if it doesn’t turn down the volume. “The sword of eviction may be the best weapon to get the bar in line,” said David S. Kasdan, a real estate lawyer and a partner in the Manhattan office of the law firm Boyd Richards Parker Colonnelli.

If the problem continues, step up the pressure. Report the noise to 311, insisting that the Department of Environmental Protection dispatch a nighttime noise inspector. But 311 is no panacea. An inspector may show up on a quiet night, or the bar may continue to make noise after a first violation.

“You may need an attorney to read your co-op the riot act,” said Alan Fierstein, a Manhattan noise consultant. A lawyer could remind the board that as your landlord, it must address conditions that violate the warranty of habitability, a state law. You are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of your apartment.

Another strategy: File a noise complaint with the State Liquor Authority, which could revoke the bar’s liquor license.

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