Once again, our Case of the Week focuses on a dispute over a Major Capital Improvement. However, this time the owner also had to contend with requirements from the Landmark Preservation Commission These can be particularly strident, as the LPC is in the business of making sure that parts of the city remain aesthetically static. However, their goal of keeping the city like a museum does not overrule the safety of tenants.
A case in point concerns the subject at the heart of today’s dispute: Protectives on hallway windows.
The owner initially applied for a rent increase based on the installation of new, double insulated hallway windows. Landlords are eligible to receive an MCI when they replace the hallway or lot-line windows of a building. However, these windows must contain protectives like wired glass in order to qualify. An application for a rent increase that does not include these protectives on lot-line or hallway windows will be rejected.
The landlord, however, argued that LPC rules prohibited the installation of wired glass because this would have altered the aesthetic of the window and building. The Rent Administrator did not agree, so the original application was rejected on September 29, 2017.
The landlord filed a Petition for Administrative review, once again arguing that LPC rules do not allow the installation of protectives in lot-line or hallway windows. The Rent Commissioner was not persuaded by this argument, largely because “the owner’s submissions including the LPC permit do not show that windows with protectives would have been in violation of LPC rules or that the hallway windows do not require protectives under applicable municipal codes.”
The landlord’s appeal was denied and the Rent Administrator’s initial order was affirmed by an order issued on January 14, 2019.
What to take away: The LPC doesn’t have the power to place safety features below aesthetic ones.