Soundclash: When Residential Condos and Commercial Tenants Can't Hear Ear-to-Ear How to Deal with the Noise

UES residents recently complained about the noise from an Equinox (iStock).

Occupying a dense city like New York can make for strange bedfellows. Parties that wouldn't ordinarily mesh often must do so simply for the sake of space being at such a premium. And sometimes it works. For instance, The Odd Couple is a beloved institution for reasons beyond a nation's enduring love for Matthew Perry.

On other occasions, however, it does not, and fallout can be arduous. As reported in The Daily News on March 27, an Equinox fitness club that occupies the first three floors of the high-end Barbizon condominium tower on Manhattan's Upper East Side has recently become the target of residents' complaints. According to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit against the gym, the routine clanging of medicine balls and weights by both trainers and members regularly reaches decibel levels that exceed the city's limit, providing those who live on the floors above with headaches both figurative and literal.

So what happens when a commercial tenant finds itself at odds with the condominium dwelling with which it shares an address? Is eviction a viable option? How best can a compromise be reached? And how do parties with such diametrically opposed interests end up coexisting in the first place?

Bring the Noise

Noise is both one of the most common issues to drive a wedge between neighbors, and also one of the most difficult to deal with. What constitutes “too loud” is quite subjective.

“There are infrequent instances, when decibel levels consistently exceed maximum limits allowed by the city noise code, that the courts will, as a last resort, order a lease termination and eviction,” says Steve Troup, an attorney and partner with the law firm of Tarter Krinsky & Drogin in New York City. “But it is rare that a commercial tenant will be evicted over quality of life issues. Judges tend to give a noise complaint short shrift, basically saying something along the lines of, 'this isn't Kansas.' Judges hate to deal with these things, and in New York City, commerce is king. Thus, mediation is more commonly a viable way to resolve these disputes.”


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