It’s A Dog’s Life

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Westchester Plaza Holdings, LLC filed a summary holdover proceeding to evict Gertrude Sherwood and her son, Sheldon Sherwood, on the ground that they had failed to cure their violation of the no-pet clause in the parties’ lease. Specifically, Westchester Plaza claimed that  the Sherwoods had violated their lease by harboring a dog without landlord’s permission. and sought a final judgment of possession of their rental apartment. Gertrude did not appear in the action. Sheldon appeared and asserted that the dog was an emotional support animal entitling him to keep  the pet in the apartment under the State’s Human Rights Law.

A non-jury trial was held before the Court. Westchester Plaza called Jana Schmidt, its in-house counsel, who testified that she was informed sometime in late February or March of  2019 that the Sherwoods were harboring a dog in the apartment in contravention of the parties’ lease. Schmidt further testified that, after being informed of the dog in the apartment, she directed her staff to investigate. She also testified that she was informed by her staff that visual observation and video confirmed that a dog was being harbored in the apartment by the Sherwoods. Schmidt further testified that neither  of them asked for permission to have a dog in their apartment.

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Build It And They Will [Sue]

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

Virginia F. Kleist and Daniel Stern owned own lakefront properties within the Chautauqua Shores subdivision. All property owners were subject to covenants and restrictions that were filed in 1962, when the subdivision was developed. The covenants and restrictions give “each and every owner of land in [the subdivision] . . . the right to enforce the same by appropriate court proceedings.”

In December 2014, Stern purchased his property with plans to demolish the existing house and build a much larger house. When Kleist saw the site plans for the new house, she notified Stern by letter in early August 2015 that the site plan showed that the home he was about to construct was in violation of paragraph five of the covenants and restrictions, which required a 100-foot setback from the lake line for any building. That same month, Kleist filed suit to enjoin Stern from violating that covenant and restriction and to require him to remove any buildings that were in violation. By her amended complaint, Kleist alleged that the house would also violate the second and fourth paragraphs of the covenants and restrictions.

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The [Rhas] Have It

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Heung C. Rha and Suhn O. Rha agreed to purchase the property located at 16-17 Bell Blvd., Bayside, New York from Alessio Blangiardo  pursuant to a contract signed on October 23, 2014.

The Rhas obligations under the contract were conditioned upon their receipt of a written mortgage loan commitment on or before November 30, 2014. And the Rhas tendered a $110,000.00 down payment, which was deposited into nonparty Salvatore E. Strazzullo, Esq.’s escrow account.

The contract included an Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 Exchange Addendum in which the parties acknowledged that the Rhas intended to purchase the property as part of a tax deferred exchange.

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New York Court of Appeals Update (August 2019)

We recently published this on the SGR Blog.

The end of June often sees “blockbuster” decisions by the Court of Appeals before the Summer recess. But the 2018/2019 Term ended “not with a bang but a whimper.” Decisions dealt with important but mundane matters: whether or not a coke oven was a product or a service for strict liability purposes; whether buildings in Lower Manhattan that received certain tax benefits were subject to luxury rent deregulation; and whether an earlier and undocketed judgment of divorce was superior to a later and docketed judgement based on an arbitration award.

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Don’t Mess With a Senior Citizen/Tenant (Whose Son is an Attorney)

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Phyllis Kossoff, a 92-year-old woman, lived in an apartment at 910 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan since 1966. After the building was converted into a coop, Kossoff and her husband became proprietary lessees of their unit. A recent dispute arose about whether Kossoff or the coop was responsible for replacing and paying for the replacement of the balcony windows and sills of the unit.

On March 22, 2018 Kossoff was approached by the coop and asked whether she was interested in selling her apartment to another shareholder who lived on her floor. Kossoff said she was not interested in selling her home of over 50 years.

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Rooftop (Legal) Warfare on Washington Avenue

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

A recent lawsuit resulted from an ongoing quarrel, between neighbors in a Washington Avenue co-op apartment building, over who owned a 2-foot by 20-foot strip of a shared rooftop terrace.

Justin Theroux (Apt. 2B) filed a complaint against Norman J. Resnicow and Barbara Resnicow, his downstairs neighbors (Apt.1A), for allegedly depriving Theroux of his right to enjoy his property.

Theroux contended that the Resnicows had engaged in a malicious and years-long harassment campaign that included frivolously challenging the boundary line between Theroux’s and the Resnicows’ shared roof deck.

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From Russia With Love

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Plaintiff (Natalya) and Defendant (Semen) were married in June 1997. They purchased a home in Valley Stream in September 1997. Semen filed for a divorce in Russia in November 2012 and was awarded a divorce in December 2012.

The parties lived together in the home until January or February 2013. When Natalya returned from a trip to Russia in January or February 2013, she found that the locks had been changed.

In November 2014, Natalya started an action to partition the home. The complaint alleged that Semen was in possession of the home and that he had refused to allow Natalya access to the home; sought return her belongings; and requested an equitable share of the value of the home.

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Don’t Block My View of Central Park!

Copyright by, and republished with permission of, Habitat Magazine.

It’s not only the sleek new condominium towers rising along Billionaires’ Row that offer priceless views of Central Park. At the venerable Essex House Condominiumon Central Park South, an Art Deco gem that first opened as a hotel in 1931, two unit-owners recently fought a court battle royale when one owner blocked a sliver of the other’s coveted view of Central Park.

The case revolved around an intriguing question: just how much is a view of Central Park worth?

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New York Court of Appeals Update (July 2019)

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

As the 2018/2019 Term approached the “homestretch”, the Court of Appeals published a “blockbuster” 4-to-3 decision holding that a commercial tenant-to-be, represented by counsel, could waive the right to prosecute a declaratory judgment action and seek Yellowstone relief; another 4-3 ruling with respect to personal jurisdiction over the Ohio firearms’ salesman of a gun used in a New York homicide; and a 6-1 opinion relating to strict liability for design defects. Consistent with a recent trend, all three cases featured unusually strident dissents.

159 MP Corp. v. Redbridge Bedford, LLC
2019 NY Slip Op 03526
Decided on May 7, 2019

In New York, agreements negotiated at arm’s length by sophisticated, counseled parties are generally enforced according to their plain language pursuant to the strong public policy favoring freedom of contract. May commercial tenants who unambiguously agreed to waive the right to commence a declaratory judgment action as to the terms of their leases ask the Court to invalidate that waiver on the rationale that the waiver is void as against public policy?

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The Creston Avenue Bathtub Brouhaha

This was originally published on the SGR blog.

Who has the time and energy to fight about a leaking bathtub? Some people apparently do. In a recent case, a residential apartment tenant (acting without an attorney) prosecuted claims against his landlord for tub-related building code violations relating to the stability of the bathtub and the containing walls in the upstairs apartment.

To resolve the dispute, a Civil Court Judge, his Court Attorney and three Court Officers went to the apartment, a third floor walk-up on Creston Avenue, to conduct an inspection.

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