Q&A: Assembling Peaceably

Q&A: Assembling Peaceably

Q When is a Place of Assembly Permit required for the private common areas (for example a roof, lobby or basement) of a cooperative building? Particularly when those areas are used for many shareholders and residents to assemble for annual shareholders meetings or social events, such as viewing the fireworks from the roof?

—Common Area Man

A “As a matter of public safety, New York City requires a Place of Assembly Certificate of Operation (PA) for all premises where the certificate indicates that 75 or more members of the public may gather indoors, or 200 or more may gather outdoors—for religious, recreational, educational, political or social purposes, to consume food or drink, or any similar group activities, according to NY Code § 27-254-5,” says Michelle Maratto, a managing partner at New York City-based firm Itkowitz PLLC. “So start by checking your building’s certificate of occupancy, which you can find on New York City's Department of Buildings' website.

“For example, if the certificate of operation for the co-op's indoor lobby notes that it can accommodate 525 people, a PA would be required for the lobby because the certificate indicates that 75 or more members of the public may gather indoors. Your building lobby quite likely already has a PA. Frankly, obtaining an initial PA is something the original sponsor should have already completed.

“The roof is another question. If the certificate of occupancy for that building does not

indicate that anyone is allowed on the roof, a PA could not be obtained. Moreover, in that case, the building should bar all legal emergency access to the roof. If the certificate of occupancy indicated that more than 200 people could be accommodated on the outdoor roof, then a PA would be required.

“Both New York Department of Buildings (DOB) and fire department oversee the public of assembly permitting process. The department enforces adherence to the building code and conducts all reviews and inspections for the initial issuance of a PA while the FDNY is responsible for all reviews and inspections for renewal PA’s to ensure compliance with the fire code.

“If your building does not have a PA, the next stop is to call an architect and coordinate with your managing agent, who should also be very familiar with these issues. To ensure continued public health and safety, PA's are renewed annually, and requires an inspection by the FDNY since the initial PA issued by DOB is only valid for one year. You do not need to do anything to initiate the renewal process because the FDNY will automatically return to the establishment for renewal PA inspections. If the building fails the renewal inspection, violations will be issued.

“Again, if your co-op is large enough to need PA’s, it is probably already managed by a property management company engaged by the board (or it should be). Most any competent property management company will understand the PA process and will be on top of it.”

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