Is there any way to keep the plants on my roof without violating any laws/codes in Brooklyn?
September 11, 2008 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I have 15 medium-sized vegetable plants on my roof in Brooklyn, which is easily accessed via stairs (i.e. not through a hatch in the roof). The roof has been treated with that silver paint stuff and is surrounded by a metal railing. My landlord originally asked me to remove the plants for a "fire safety" inspection. I removed them but put them back the following day after the inspection. Today (several weeks later) I received a letter from my landlord stating that I had to permanently remove the plants because he received a violation for "illegally occupying the roof deck." I really don't want to get rid of my plants! Is there any way to keep them on my roof without technically violating any laws/codes??
posted by staveitoff123 to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
It's September 11th. Will this be an issue in a month? Six weeks? First frost?
posted by fixedgear at 7:34 PM on September 11, 2008

My guess is that it's not illegal and your landlord is just being a jerk. But, so what? Say you leave them and he throws them out... then what?
posted by meta_eli at 7:58 PM on September 11, 2008

Yeah, I'm also betting that he simply doesn't want them there. Landlords make capricious and arbitrary decisions seemingly designed to drain the joy out of life. The more you try to comply with "legal" side of things, the more you'll piss him off.

This is Brooklyn we're talking about, after all... a land where incredibly egregious violations in a building go ignored or unnoticed for years because they're expensive, but a few plants on a rooftop WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:05 PM on September 11, 2008

How about asking him for a copy of the citation?
posted by yclipse at 8:10 PM on September 11, 2008

It's entirely possible that it's illegal, but there's probably a bunch of judgement calls in there, and your landlord may or may not be in the right.

The fire inspector probably determined that the staircase leading to the roof wasn't up to code (just for fire saftey's sake, not unsoundly built), which would mean that people can't "occupy" the roof deck. For the roof to be considered "occupied", it would have to be an "occupiable" space, which sounds like a tautology, but really isn't. Quite. Basically there are types of spaces in the building code that are considered to have occupants for the purposes of fire exiting. Offices, bedrooms, conference rooms, kitchens -- all have an "occupant load" assigned to them that stipulates a certain amount of people per a certain square footage, and the space has to built so that that specific amount of people can exit safely in the event of a fire. Other spaces in a building, such as bathrooms, closets and hallways are obviously able to be occupied by people and people spend some time in there, but their stays are only transitory, so those spaces have no occupant load. Right now, your roof is probably considered to be one of those spaces with no occupant load. As such, it may not have an adequate exiting situation, or means of egress, to allow people to exit the building from the roof per code. Maybe the stair's not wide enough; maybe the fire escape doesn't extend to the roof; who knows why.

I would ask to see a copy of the notice, since I'm not sure how the fire marshall would know about the plants if you relocated them. Maybe he came on a different day than you thought? I wouldn't take it as a given that the landlord is lying, though.
posted by LionIndex at 9:43 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

In all honesty, you're probably going to piss your landlord off more if you keep the plants on the roof.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:53 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you paying rent for the roof? Are others paying rent for the roof? If both are no, is there room for everyone else in the building to have 15 plants on the roof? I'm not sure it's just an issue of it violating any laws.

It is the landlord's building after all, and if you're not paying for that space, you can't use it, simple as that.
posted by Grither at 5:36 AM on September 12, 2008

If there are not that many plants up there and you have a sunny area in your apartment, get yourself a multi-tiered shelving unit that has drainage holes and some lights like you'll find here - and you'll have a Garden of Eatin under your own roof where no one can hassle you, the pollution doesn't get on the plants and you can enjoy watching your garden grow. It's doable and it's better than getting into a power struggle with your landlord, plus it'll save the plants from getting frost-bitten.

Some other sites worth reading -

and this

posted by watercarrier at 5:59 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Buy off your landlord with a few of your heirloom tomatoes.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2008

Unless you're specicialy paying rent on the roof, it's not your roof, it's the landlord's. Invest in window boxes.
posted by Ookseer at 2:45 PM on September 12, 2008

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