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The Weirdest Laws in New York City (That Most Folks Haven’t Even Heard Of)

Weird laws New York City

New York City was founded in 1624, meaning there’s countless outdated, absurd and otherwise weird laws still on the books. Most fly under the radar, meaning you might be breaking a few of them without even knowing. *Cue the theme song from Cops.*

Full disclosure: I’m not a lawyer nor do I claim to be an expert in the law. However I have Google and a healthy level of curiosity. So whether you’re looking for dinner topics or just in the middle of a 2AM rabbit hole, here are the weirdest laws in New York City.

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The Weirdest Laws in New York City

Honking is illegal in New York City

You wouldn’t immediately assume honking is against the law in New York City. All it takes is half a second in the Big Apple to hear the medley of traffic noises and road rage.

But one of the most surprising laws in New York City is that honking is illegal, except when used as a warning of danger. Can someone please pass the word onto the drivers that honk outside my windows at 6AM?

The city used to have signs that read “Don’t Honk” but brought them down 10 years ago, all but admitting defeat on the war on noise pollution. Drivers caught honking can still face an $800 fine, but the law is seldom enforced.

Weird NYC Laws

You can’t wear slippers past 10PM

Can someone give me a good reason why someone shouldn’t be allowed to wear slippers inside their home past 10PM? Because I can’t think of one!

But indeed, one of the weirdest laws in New York City is that you’re not allowed to wear slippers that late, boo-hoo. What am I supposed to do, walk barefoot?

You can be fined $25 for flirting

Fellas you better be on your best behavior because flirting is a crime in New York City, punishable by a $25 fine. Although it’s one of the weirdest laws in New York City I’m sure some folks could appreciate the sentiment.

Nobody likes to be catcalled or ogled uncomfortably, especially by a creep. The law specifically aimed to curb unwanted advances by drunken men. Although it’s not an enforced law it’s been on the books since 1902.

Weirdest New York City Laws

You can have a dog in your apartment… Even if your lease says you can’t

I’m not a lawyer so proceed at your own risk, but there’s something called the 90 Day NYC Pet Law that enables tenants to keep their pets even if their lease says they can’t.

So long as you house your pet openly for 90 days your landlord forfeits the right to evict you. You can’t hide the pet, and documentation of it in public spaces is encouraged and once you clear the 90 days you’re safe.

However, this is one of the weirdest laws in New York City and it’s a roll of the dice. If your landlord catches you with your pet before you’ve had it for 90 days they can make you get rid of it, or worse, evict you.

Best dog parks New York City

Donkeys are not allowed to sleep in bathtubs in Brooklyn

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but donkeys in Brooklyn aren’t legally allowed to sleep in bathtubs. As far as I can tell they can still bathe, but their beauty sleep will have to be elsewhere. 😉

It’s illegal to shake a dust mop out a window

New York is often thought of as a dirty city, but it doesn’t crack the top 10 dirtiest cities in America. I give the credit to a variety of cleanliness laws, including one that states you can’t shake a dust mop out the window. New Yorkers have a tendency to push limits, and laws like this help keep the city from becoming a free for all.

Weird NYC Laws, UES

It’s illegal to have more than two roommates that aren’t blood relatives

Apartment market in the Big Apple is a madhouse, and I’m not just talking about the prices. One of the weirdest laws in New York City is that you can’t have more than two roommates you’re not related to.

As you can tell by the horror stories of a half dozen roommates sharing a one bedroom apartment, the law isn’t necessarily a sticking point. The general rule of thumb is a minimum of 80 square feet per person, family or not.

Women can’t wear “body-hugging” clothing

Anyone who’s visited New York City knows that leggings and yoga pants are staple pieces in thousands of women’s wardrobes. However, one of the weirdest laws in New York City is that women can’t wear “body-hugging” clothing.

Don’t worry, no one is coming for your Lululemons or Alo yoga pants. The law was likely written a hundred years ago, today you’ll even see folks in bathing suits in public parks getting a tan.

Weird Laws New York City, SoHo

Grocery stores aren’t allowed to sell wine

When Prohibition started in 1920 it became illegal for grocery stores to sell alcohol. Surprisingly, nearly 100 years after Prohibition’s repeal, it’s still illegal in New York City.

The reason why? The state’s developed a web of more than 3,700 liquor stores that would likely struggle if the bigger grocery chains were able to compete.

Regardless, there is a growing movement to change the state’s ruling (include a proposal in summer 2023), but until then it’s one of the weirdest laws in New York City.

It’s illegal to talk to people in an elevator

Introverts can collectively breath a sigh of relief, small talk in New York City elevators is illegal. I couldn’t find any concrete reason why, but a general consensus has to do with how fragile elevators were in their infancy.

New Yorkers were told to fold their hands while looking at the doors to eliminate any movement and keep the elevator as steady as possible. Luckily elevators are much safer now, but the law was never taken off the books.

You can’t stage entertainment from your window

Show biz and the Big Apple are two peas in a pod. With that said, you unfortunately can’t stage any entertainment from your window. This weird New York City law includes puppet shows, ballet, and dancing. To this end I’ll have to cancel this evening’s show at my apartment window, sorry guys.

Weird NYC Laws, West Village

Lights in Times Square have to meet a minimum brightness level

We live in a world were reputation is everything, and the bright lights of Times Square are famous the world over. It’s understandable that there’s a rule (not technically a law) that electronic billboards have to meet a minimum brightness level in Times Square. I’m just glad I’m not the one paying for their electricity bill.

Weird Laws New York City

Unique New York City Laws (Post Summary)

  • Honking is Illegal in New York City
  • You Can’t Wear Slippers Past 10PM
  • Flirting is Punishable by a $25 Fine
  • You Can Have a Dog in Your Apartment… Even if Your Lease Says You Can’t
  • Donkeys Are Not Allowed to Sleep in Bathtubs in Brooklyn
  • It’s Illegal to Shake a Dust Mop Out a Window
  • It’s Illegal to Have More than Two Roommates that Aren’t Blood Relatives
  • Women Can’t Wear “Body-Hugging” Clothing
  • Grocery Stores Can’t Sell Wine
  • It’s Illegal to Talk to People in an Elevator
  • You Can’t Stage Entertainment from Your Window
  • Lights in Times Square Have to Meet a Minimal Brightness Level

And there you have it, folks. I hope these weird New York City laws give you ample dinner topics.

Chat soon, Al.

Carmen Miller

Saturday 9th of December 2023

Fun read! I'll be breaking out some of these at dinner parties.