Memorial Day, which marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season and with it the unofficial beginning of grilling season, is fast approaching. Although there are plenty of locations within NYC’s public parks where you can get the grill fired up (you can find the list here) finding an available barbecue pit on Memorial Day may prove to be harder than getting a table for brunch at Sadelle’s. But just because you live in an apartment does not mean you can’t enjoy grilling. New York City has strict rules about outdoor grilling on the balconies and rooftops. However, it doesn’t entirely ban the practice. The rules you’ll need to follow in order to grill on your balcony or rooftop are largely based on the type of the grill you will be using: propane, natural gas, charcoal or electric.
Co-op & Condo Rules
Before you light up your grill make sure to check if your building allows it. Most co-op and condo buildings in NYC strictly prohibit grilling on the balconies and terraces.
One Rule That Applies to All Grills & Barbecues
Section 307.5.3 of the NYC Fire Code requires that your grill or BBQ be placed more than 10 feet away from anything that can easily catch fire. This includes building walls, deck surfaces, and furniture. You cannot grill inside of your apartment, fire escape, and on your balcony. (Unless your balcony is so large that you have a 10 ft. clearance between the grill and the building.)
Natural Gas Barbecues
This is the most popular type of a grill in NYC apartment buildings. Many new apartment buildings install natural gas barbecues as an amenity for its residents. Generally, natural gas barbecues are legal to use at all residential properties in NYC but they must be installed by a New York City Licensed Master Plumber (LMP) according to the NYC Fuel Gas Code. In addition, the piping must be inspected and tested by the LMP.
This is not an option for apartment owners. Although allowed to be used in the backyards of single and two family homes, NYC Fuel Gas Code restricts the use of propane grills in apartment buildings. For apartment buildings it’s illegal to store a standard backyard propane barbecue on a balcony, roof deck, roof, rear yard or courtyard. Standard propane barbecues use 20-pound liquefied petroleum gas — or LPG — containers. While propane tanks cannot be stored on roofs, you may use a propane tank that’s smaller than 16.4 ounces for a short period of time on a roof.
Electric barbecue grills are legal to install, use and maintain at residential properties. This includes balconies, terraces, roofs or yards. But unlike regular kitchen appliances, electric grills use a substantial amount of electricity. Make sure that your outlet has an electric current sufficient to safely operate your electric grill. Extension cords should not be used unless they are approved by the grills’s manufacturer and are safe to use with the current required to run the grill. Otherwise you risk starting the fire and your neighbors will definitely not appreciate that. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the grill properly, and be sure to keep the grill at least 10 ft. from anything that could catch fire.
It is legal to use charcoal barbecues on terraces and in backyards, but not on balconies and roofs. As with other types of grills, there must be a 10-ft. clearance between the grill and anything that could catch fire. You must also have immediate access to a fire extinguisher or a water supply, such as a garden hose. See the NYC Fire Code §307.5.1.
Petro Zinkovetsky, Esq., is the founder of Zinkovetsky Law Firm, New York, N.Y.