One of the seemingly strangest areas of real property law involves of air rights. Yet this esoteric area has become quite pertinent, particularly as buildings have climbed to unprecedented heights in urban areas.
The buildings and activities of our neighbors affect our sunlight, air, quiet or disturbance, and the general quality of our lives. The plot of land we inhabit is not merely the ground beneath our feet but also the air over us.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden is currently being threatened in its essential activities by a neighbor. Continuum Development Company is seeking to build a 39 story residential complex close to the gardens. In its effort to achieve this, Continuum is asking the City of New York to rezone its land.
This project should be blocked. The proposed buildings, with their tall shadows, would deprive the Botanical Garden of needed sunlight. The Garden would be unable to plant flowers and other plants over a considerable area.
We should agree that there are limits to what an owner is allowed to do with its property. The public good may outweigh the owner’s discretion under certain circumstances, and the one in Brooklyn is one such circumstance.