New Yorkers Ask Where Their Holiday Spirt Is; Firefighters: Law's The Law

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In a city of small spaces, an apartment building lobby is often an extension of people’s homes. And during the holidays that includes all those decorations.

But did you know Christmas trees can be illegal?

That means the FDNY is being forced to confiscate them, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported Wednesday night.

Of the trees in New York City building lobbies, many are fake, but in certain buildings live trees are a major no-no.

“It’s like ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ and not just Christmas, but all holidays that are celebrated,” Upper West Side building resident Sonya Chodry said.

Chodry said she’s annoyed because firefighters removed the Christmas tree from the lobby of her building last week, putting it outside, declaring it illegal.

“Somebody didn’t like it, came along and called the Fire Department,” Chodry said.

“It would seem a little Grinchy to just start grabbing Christmas trees, I think,” Upper West Side resident Greg Manabat added.

Under the city’s fire code it’s unlawful to display highly combustible goods, including live Christmas trees in building common areas. CBS 2’s Dennis obtained access to an FDNY training video which shows why, an unattended Christmas tree burning up in seconds.

“The problem is they’re so combustible when not properly cared for, it’s a danger for the occupants,” FDNY Deputy Chief Dan Donoghue said.

Donoghue said no firefighter wants to take away anyone’s Christmas. After all, his firehouse has its own live tree, but he said live trees in building lobbies will be removed.

“It’s something we’d rather not do, but for the safety of the building, it’s something we have to do,” Donoghue said.

Firefighters said they are finding more and more live Christmas trees illegally displayed, either through routine inspection, or from an actual complaint.

“Oh, that’s too bad. It kind of kills the Christmas spirit,” Upper West Side parent Linda Burke said.

Burke and her 10-year-old son, Regan, just bought a small Christmas tree for their apartment, which is legal, but they said the danger depends on the level of care, not location.

“Well, yeah, you gotta take care of them just like any other tree,” Regan Burke said.

The solution for some buildings is displaying their trees outside the lobby, and wishing the FDNY a merry Christmas — anyway.

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