Question: Our prewar condominium building is undergoing a major repair that will continue for many months. There’s scaffolding surrounding the perimeter of the building, and one unit owner has been chaining her bicycle to it. The bicycle remains there most days and evenings, and is unsightly and unwelcome. We have spoken to the superintendent of our building as well as the managing agent, to no avail. We have also sent respectful emails to the unit owner asking her to house her bicycle in her apartment or in her storage unit — also to no avail. Can you suggest a way to prevail upon this unit owner to remove her personal property from the front or side of our building?
— Miffed in Manhattan
Common error: It’s not properly referred to as “scaffolding,” though that’s what everyone calls it. The correct term is “sidewalk shed.”
Those are the ubiquitous Tinkertoy constructions that seem to pop up in front of various buildings overnight and then sit there for decades — 7,831 to be exact as of September. There’s even a city map of sidewalk sheds. Maybe you could use it to plot a route through town during a rainstorm.
But I digress. What a pain in the rear this is. I checked out your building on the Department of Buildings website, and it looks like the shed has been up for nearly two years. I’m surprised that a bicycle is the only obstruction that’s become permanent. I’m surprised someone hasn’t moved in under there.
I’m even more surprised, however, that your building management isn’t being tougher on your neighbor. I mean, really, what kind of Manhattan building doesn’t exercise its authority to make the residents’ lives as miserable as possible whenever it can?
The bicycle is much more than just a visual nuisance. It’s a potential sidewalk obstruction that could get the building fined. It’s one thing to tolerate a pizza guy who locks his bike to the shed for five minutes, but it’s another thing to turn the shed into a semi-permanent bike rack.
I’d suggest you go back to the building manager or your building board and more forcefully insist that they have the bike removed. If that still doesn’t work, call 311 and follow these instructions [PDF warning!] or file a complaint with the city here.
While the city has some very specific rules about abandoned bikes, the rules about bikes that are used are a bit more ambiguous. Nevertheless, the bike shouldn’t be there, and it’s OK to raise a fuss about it.
David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at email@example.com. For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.
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