ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dental Office Isn't "Noxious" Business

A dentist’s office is not a “noxious, dangerous or offensive trade or business,” and therefore the wealthy residents of the historic and extremely expensive Treadwell Farm Historic District on New York's Upper East Side will have to suffer the annoyance of having it on their block, according to a recent decision by a Manhattan state court judge, reported in the New York Lawyer.

A group of dentists occupied the first two floors of a four-story townhouse.  Plaintiffs Samuel Lek (CEO of Lek Securities Corp.) and Helen Roosevelt (of Teddy’s, not Frank’s wing of the family) led a suit by the East Sixties Property Owners Association to try to boot them out, demanding a permanent injunction and a constructive trust on all their revenues.  The angry Masters of the Universe sued under an 1868 real estate covenant that provided:

That no . . . business or occupation known as nuisances in the law or which may be dangerous or offensive to the neighboring inhabitants shall ever be made, erected or permitted on said lots of land.

The covenant went on to specifically to categorize things like slaughterhouses, tanneries, gunpowder manufacturers, and gambling dens.

Aaa As a matter of law, a dentist’s office isn’t in that class, ruled Justice Faviola Soto (left), dismissing the complaint.  The plaintiffs essentially argued that the mere existence of a commercial establishment in the neighborhood was "offensive to the neighboring inhabitants," but Soto -- the daughter of immigrants and the first judge of Dominican descent to sit on the New York bench -- concluded that the “discreet brass plate” that announced the name of the dental offices could not reasonably be viewed in the same class as a circus, a saloon, or a brass foundry.

Incidentally, if you're willing to put up with a nearby dental office, you can rent a cute little place in the district for a mere $17,000 a month.

[Frank Snyder]

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