March 31 2010
What if the person isn’t a sex offender, but someone who likes to have sex with himself or walk around in the nude in his apartment in full view of his next door neighbor?
It’s a sight I’ve seen, more than once. Whenever I’m up and about early Sunday morning there’s this guy across the way in all his glory, watering his plants and himself. It never occurred to me to do anything about it, other than avert my eyes, though I should have known someone else would have seen things differently.
Mr. X claimed that the condo he had sublet from its owner was uninhabitable because of the view it offered of his neighbor. Maybe it’s not the view your want, but it’s not dangerous to your health or safety, so you better learn to live with it, the court told him. (See below)
What if the board, not an individual owner, is confronted with the situation? It can’t ban home alone nudity (at least not yet), but it can require residents to install appropriate window coverings the way many buildings insist that you cover 80% of your apartment floor surface (not that most people listen). Only then instead of debating the virtue of clothes, observed and observer would fight over which of them has to keep the shades drawn. And ultimately it could come down to whether walking around exposed is like secondhand smoke, a personal pleasure that must be curtailed when it impinges on someone else, except so far, it’s not something that has been found to cause demonstrable harm.
And as more glass towers with unobstructed vistas — inside and out — are erected, I promise you this will only become a bigger problem for boards and residents, as it already is at the Standard Hotel where management has sought to protect naked guests from the prying eyes of passersby on the High Line, who stop and stare, undercutting the secondhand smoke theory.
If you are in the cover up camp you might get more help from the cops than the board if what happened a few months back to a Virginia homeowner is any guide. He went to make himself a cup of Joe at 5:30 a.m., without benefit of clothes, only to be spotted by some woman walking by with her seven-year old son, who reported him for drinking a cup of coffee in the nude. If you can believe it, he was convicted by a jury for indecent exposure – in his own house. Though he’s vowed to appeal, until it’s resolved, you might consider putting on a robe while you brew your mocha java — then that was Virginia and this is New York, where Spencer Tunick got 450 people to pose nude in Grand Central Station.
The calculus changes if the guy who doesn’t like clothes ventures into public space in your building Then you wouldn’t be intruding on the nudist’s space, he’d be intruding on yours, and that of your fellow residents, commanding the attention of the board. Assuming he made a habit of it, chances are he could be charged with Objectionable Conduct. (See, How Bad Do You Have To Be?) as one resident at London Terrace was for parading through the halls half naked, among many other things. (See below)
But the truth is right now there are more questions than answers to a lot of these issues.
For more, see:
- Palais Partners v. Vollenweider, 173 Misc.2d 8 (Civ. Ct. N.Y. Ct 1997) (Sublessee can’t go against condo unit owner for sexual conduct of next door neighbor.)
- London Terrace Towers, Inc. v. Davis, 6 Misc.3d 600 (Civ. Ct. N.Y. Co. 2004) (Shareholder’s tenancy terminated for objectionable conduct.)
To access these cases, click here, then on continue, and enter case citation.