The next time your neighbor steals your newspaper, stifle the urge to send him an anthrax filled letter and be thankful you don’t live next to Edward Cohen.

In a recent decision (JSB Properties v. Cohen, 58678/11, NYLJ 1202619904667, at *1 (Civ., NY, Decided August 26, 2013)), Manhattan Civil Court Judge Jean Schneider refused to evict tenant Edward Cohen for intermittently yelling at himself in his apartment, finding that his behavior did not constitute a legal “nuisance” (tell that to his neighbors).  Judge Schneider held that silence is not the standard tenants should rightly be held to and that that New York City apartment dwellers must expect “to put up with a certain amount of noise” from their neighbors.

Plaintiff/Landlord JSB Properties had argued that Mr. Cohen should be evicted for violating a stipulation of settlement that called for his removal if his behavior became a nuisance.

According to testimony from his neighbor, the building superintendent and the building’s managing agent, Mr. Cohen often screamed and berated himself in his own apartment loudly enough to be heard by his neighbors, and, on a few occasions, said that he would kill himself (though his suicide threats were never taken at face value).  It didn’t help that Paul Drost, the complaining neighbor, was unemployed and oftentimes at home, making him privy to the outbursts which largely took place during business/work hours.

However, there was no evidence that Mr. Cohen was ever confrontational towards his neighbors or yelled in common areas of the apartment building, though all the verbal self flagellation couldn’t have been good for Mr. Cohen’s self-esteem.

The Judge’s decision quoted Sterling Place v. Smith, 9/30/98 N.Y.L.J. 28, col. 5 (Civ. Ct NY Cty) which noted that “[a]partment house living in a metropolitan area is attended with certain well-known inconveniences and discomforts. The peace and quiet of a rural estate or the sylvan silence of a mountain lodge cannot be expected in a multiple dwelling.

The court also took into account Mr. Cohen’s status as a senior citizen, a 37-year Rent Stabilized tenant, a client of the city’s Adult Protective Services, and an individual suffering from Asperger’s Disorder  – a perfect storm for the Court to shy away from eviction.  Nonetheless, the notion that an annoying neighbor is not necessarily a legal nuisance was reinforced by this decision and New York City apartment dwellers should all begrudgingly be aware of that concept.

The moral:  love thy neighbor.

November 14, 2013

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