New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Bad Boards, p.2


Forty-eight hours later, he said, the board had rejected the couple without an interview. Cook confirmed the call, but insists Plaks for some reason promised her right of first refusal — a claim Plaks and his broker, Lenore Silverstein of the venerable but now-defunct Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, Manhattan's sixth-largest real-estate broker at the time, flatly denied.

Plaks then got another call from Cook. Fearing no buyer would pass board muster as long as Cook wanted the apartment, he gave in, agreeing to a $680,000 cash deal. But then Cook said Litman – who died earlier this year and was best known for defending infamous "Preppie Killer" Robert E. Chambers Jr. – would buy it instead. Plaks was concerned a controversial figure might not get board approval, a concern not abated by what he felt was Litman's sketchy and lacking financial documentation, and the fact it would now be a mortgage rather than cash deal. But this, the board approved. Board president Theodore J. Freiser refused to discuss the matter with the newspaper.

What's the danger of what appears to be insider wheeler-dealing? As JoAnne Kennedy, then COO Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, told the Times, cases like this just increase calls for transparency laws — as was enacted on Long Island a few years later. "This is an extreme misuse of co-op board power,'' she said.

Kicking You When You're Cancerous

Now, of course all older people aren't wise elders – some of them are cranky coots, and most fall in-between those extremes. So, likewise, not all Stage 4 cancer patients are beatific accepters of their fate, having made peace with their maker. But they're still, y'know, Stage 4 cancer patients, and that has to earn them a little consideration when it comes to, say, kicking them out of their homes as they lie dying. Not to be crass, but the co-op board can't wait a couple of months? late last year related such a case, submitted to the site by the law firm Adam Leitman Bailey, which represents the dying man. The apartment owner, a fashion designer in his fifties, has Stage 4 cancer, which can mean different things depending on the diagnostic system used for labeling, but which generally means the cancer has metastasized. Tragically, that virtually always means the patient is terminal.

The co-op board of the 69-unit, Upper East Side prewar building, using the Pullman decision as its legal basis, voted to cancel the shareholder's lease, thereby evicting him. Claiming he had engaged in a pattern of objectionable conduct over many years – which begs the question of why the board waited till he was at his frailest and near death to do this — it charged that he had improperly combined two apartments – and again, how do you have workers doing extensive construction/renovation without anyone noticing at the time?

The board also said he installed a washing machine and a dryer without approval, yelled at other residents and threatened litigation and — and here's what it gets weird — invited women to dance in high heels late at night to "terrorize" a librarian living below and attempted to kill or main another resident, using his car.

One hesitates to comment, not having witnessed this first-hand, but the phrase "over-the-top hyperbole" springs to mind. Or perhaps a tabloid headline: "Cancer Patient Terror Reign!"

And Finally … Scott-Free: When Your Bathroom Tissue Is Déclassé

No less than Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group, recalled a case reported by Candace Taylor in The Real Deal : A paper-company executive was rejected from a Central Park West co-op because he dared question a board rule that all residents must use a certain kind of toilet paper. Is the plumbing really so sensitive that choosing Charmin over Scott could bring it all down? Or is the board just being remarkably snooty and authoritarian? Either way, that's pretty crappy.

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