From the NY Times:
As the city aggressively enforces a long existent but widely ignored code, walls are falling across Manhattan, radically altering the housing landscape for scores of young professionals. Thousands of renters are being told that the walls that have been put up over the years without approval from the Department of Buildings must come down. And new renters are being informed that if they wish to divide a space, they will need to rely on bookshelves or partial walls that don’t reach the ceiling.
Manhattan apartments are as varied as the roommates who decide to share a place. Because of this, there are no rules that apply universally. But in all cases, temporary walls must not block exit routes or interfere with the ventilation and sprinkler systems. And there are minimum requirements for room size.
The current focus on temporary walls is driven by two developments: prosecutors’ decision to level manslaughter charges at the owners of a building where a fatal fire occurred in 2005 and, more recently, the city’s drive to eliminate illegally installed temporary walls in Stuyvesant Town, the sprawling complex between 14th and 23rd Streets on the East Side.
City officials note that it has long been illegal to install a floor-to-ceiling wall without a permit from the Department of Buildings, even though landlords as well as tenants have often disregarded this requirement. But the strict enforcement at Stuyvesant Town has prompted many landlords to get into compliance.