Co-op and condo boards stuck in smoke battle

March 16, 2011 3:31:38 PM PDT
Some co-op and condo boards in New York City are now having to deal with residents filing lawsuits over smoking neighbors.

"We were constantly sick and we could not get better," said Christie Ewen, condo owner.

In fact, Christie Ewen says the situation in her TriBeCa apartment was so bad that she and her family were forced to sue her next door neighbor.

The issue is cigarette smoke.

Lately, some New York City residents are so desperate to clear the air inside their own apartments they're seeking injunctions as a last resort.

Eyewitness News asked Ewen if she ever tried to talk to her neighbor about it and she said that she had tried to many times before filing the lawsuit.

Co-op and condo boards are caught right in the middle.

On the one hand they are obligated to protect smoker's rights inside their own homes, but on the other facing constant complaints from non smokers, who feel their rights to an odor-free, healthy home, are being violated.

"Certainly, more and more every year we get inquiries from our clients about whether or not they can ban smokers from the buildings," said Jeffrey Reich, a real estate attorney.

So far, virtually no one has, but Steven Michaelson's condo board on the Upper East Side is hoping to vote on it this spring.

"The people who are affected by the smoking and really don't like it, they're the squeaky wheel," Michaelson said.

Attorneys say the most complaints about smoking come in the newly constructed buildings in the city because the walls are often thinner and the ventilation systems can pose problems.

Meanwhile, you have smokers like Dennis Novick who say it's not fair.

"I'd be absolutely livid, absolutely livid," Novick said, "What I'm afraid of is that in a few short years, they're going to be telling, dictating, when a husband can make love to his wife!"

Bottom line, by the time the smoke on this issue begins to clear, the courts will be very busy.