Q: I live on the third floor of a small rent-stabilized walk-up building in the East Village. I have a 1-year-old baby, and have been leaving my stroller at the landing near the bottom of the stairs since he was born. No one complained until a new tenant moved in and told the landlord that the stroller is a tripping hazard. Now the landlord is telling me to move the stroller, but carrying it and my baby up two flights of stairs seems dangerous. What can I do? And what would happen if I ignored the complaints?
A: You are not allowed to store a stroller in the hallway. The city fire code prohibits it and, in all likelihood, so does your lease. Your neighbor could have come to you with his concerns rather than call the landlord, but he’s not wrong.
“It’s illegal because it has the potential to impede ingress and egress during a fire, both of the firefighters and the residents of the building,” said Samuel J. Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents tenants.
If you ignore the letter, your landlord could take you to housing court, where you’d probably be given the option to remove the stroller to avoid eviction. But you could be liable for the attorney’s fees. And you don’t want the headache of housing court. Instead, you’ll have to do what other parents in walk-ups do: carry the baby and the stroller up the stairs.
It’s not easy. I lived in a walk-up when my son was an infant and toddler, and my back still remembers. Consider swapping your current stroller for a lighter, more compact model that you can hoist onto your shoulder. Now that the baby is older, an umbrella stroller may be a good option. Find a safe spot inside your apartment to store the stroller, or hang it on a hook behind a door. Once your son starts walking and climbing stairs, teach him to walk up the stairs in front of you on his own. The sooner he’s able to do it, the easier it will be on you. For now, you’re going to have to find a way to get him and his gear safely in and out of the apartment.
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