There's a particularly crazy fight over an Upper East Side backyard featured in today's NY Times. One family, the O'Maras, bought a townhouse with a big back garden that extends across a few properties on East 83rd Street. When their plans to building a three-story kitchen and personal gym addition that would span three backyards (see this graphic), their immediate neighbors to the west, the Brimberg-O'Brian family, freaked out. And now the two neighbors have been waging a fight, complete with former buildings department officials and many, many lawsuits. The Brimbergs say they'll lose their view and that the O'Maras are violating numerous building laws and are creating fire hazards, while the O'Maras say the Brimbergs are upset they didn't get to buy the garden in the first place. There's a great quote from the O'Maras' neighbor to the east, Clorinda Romano:
"A gym! That's what every family needs. I don't understand people anymore — this need to be bigger and bigger and bigger and more and more and more. There's an expression that Italians have: 'If you eat with both hands, you'll choke.' It's better in Italian; but it's true."
Yeah, but aren't Americans so into being obese? It's hard to feel that bad for people with townhouses and gardens, when many people are perfectly happy with their views of a shaftway, but you've got to admit, waiting 8 months for the Department of Buildings to respond to a complaint is a bit much (the DOB says their delay in responding to the Brimbergs' was "a lapse on [their] end.")
A lot of the scuffle seems to be dependent on how one reads what the Times calls a "little-known" 1982 Buildings Department memo about "yards in irregular lots". We've dug up the PDF here - we suppose the O'Maras' lot would be the "flagpole" shaped lot. Oh, and you know how Neil Diamond is suing his East 63rd Street neighbor over their rooftop construction? It turns out the neighbor is suing the neighboring synagogue and a tenant too!