New apartment windows held up by red tape

Getting new windows for one's apartment in New York isn't so easy

A whole lot of windows at 5 Tudor City Place
A whole lot of windows at 5 Tudor City Place

In New York, replacing old windows in one’s apartment isn’t so fast or easy as it is in other parts of the country. Rather than selecting the windows and having a contractor install them, window replacement in the city can be bogged down by red tape and regulations.

In co-op and condominium buildings in the city, there are often specifications to follow and boards to please. In buildings designated as landmarks, a permit from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is needed.

Although these extra steps often result in a more protracted – and more expensive – project than homeowners might expect, they are designed to maintain the aesthetic integrity of the city’s streets, according to the New York Times.

Andre Neethling experienced firsthand the difference new windows can make. When he originally bought his one-bedroom co-op at 5 Tudor City Place in Manhattan 15 years ago, it didn’t take him long to discover a problem.

“It was extremely noisy,” Neethling told the Times, as well as dusty, because so much air was coming through the original casement windows, which gave the space character but also dated from about 1930.

When the building offered shareholders a pre-approved replacement option, he jumped at the opportunity and had Skyline Windows replace his windows in two phases — some in 2009 and the rest in November.

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“I’m very pleased,” he said, adding that the new windows “cut down the noise by 99 percent,” and keep the dust out, while maintaining the look of the original window units.

For anyone thinking about replacing the windows in their apartments, “The first thing to look at is whose responsibility the windows are,” Stuart M. Saft, a partner of the law firm Holland & Knight and chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, told the Times.

“In some buildings, they’re the responsibility of the co-op or condominium; in others, they’re the responsibility of the apartment owner,” Saft said. “Then there’s a third category of buildings where it’s not clear who’s responsible, and it comes down to the history of what the building has done.”

For those seeking clarity, he advised reading the co-op’s proprietary lease or the condo’s bylaws. In cases where windows are the building’s responsibility, they are typically replaced only as part of a building-wide program, not at an individual’s request.

Regardless of who is legally responsible, Saft said that most boards are happy to let individual shareholders and unit owners replace their windows at their own expense, as long as all rules and standards are followed. [NYT] — TRD