A transsexual resident of the Eldorado on Central Park West who was convicted in 2006 of assaulting her aging South African heiress mother is facing a lawsuit from the building’s co-op board. The board is trying to oust Diane Wells from the 208-unit, Emery Roth-designed building, once home to “30 Rock” actor Alec Baldwin, by seeking permission from the court to terminate her proprietary lease.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday in Supreme Court, the apartment corporation claimed that Wells, who lives on the ninth floor of the building, has become a nuisance. The story was first reported in the New York Post.
Wells, born Jonathan Cheney, made headlines in 2005 when she reportedly attacked her now-deceased mother Constance Joyce Cheney, a crime for which she served 60 days on Riker’s Island. She is also alleged to have tried to solicit a friend to murder her brother for her mother’s estate in 2007, which included the Eldorado spread, unit 9B. Her brother also accused her of exerting undue pressure on their mother while she was alive to transfer to her the three-bedroom apartment, which the family had owned since 1954. The Eldorado is located at 300 Central Park West.
She “regularly smokes cigarettes and/or tobacco products in the apartment, which has caused smoke and other offensive odors to escape from the apartment,” according to the complaint, filed by the law firm of Ganfer & Shore. The smoke is seeping through holes in the wall, it said, which Wells will not allow building maintenance staff to mend.
Wells has also failed to pay her monthly maintenance fees for a significant period, prompting the board to resort to taking money from an escrow account they required her to set up when she was first made a joint owner of the proprietary lease in 1999, the board alleges. The escrow account, which the board deemed necessary since Wells did not maintain a sufficient level of income to meet the standards of the building, is to contain enough cash to cover 12 months of maintenance in the white-glove building. In 1999, that amount was around $24,420. As of 2012, it was $51,289.
As of July 1, Wells allegedly owed the apartment corporation $18,629, and, despite receiving several notices about her debt, had not responded to the board’s calls to action at the time the complaint was filed. When the board moved to withdraw the money it was owed from the escrow account earlier this week, it said it found that Wells only had $27,372 on deposit in the account. Wells would have to pay a total of $42,544 into the account to satisfy the board’s requirements.
The co-op board is seeking a restraining order against Wells to prevent her from smoking in the building as well as permission from the court to terminate her lease, meaning she would be evicted and her shares in the co-op sold by the board. It is also demanding $500,000 in compensatory damages for the breach in the terms of the lease and escrow agreement in addition to $100,000 to cover its legal fees.
William De Jonge, the vice president of the co-op board and managing director of Ampton Investments, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Wells could not be reached.
According to a previous lawsuit brought against Wells by her brother in 2005, Wells launched a campaign of torture on her mother upon returning home as a woman in 1989, aged 36. She is alleged to have been emotionally abusive and physically violent towards the elderly woman, hitting her habitually and eventually breaking her arm in the 2005 incident that landed her in jail.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Thomas Tierney, the former CEO of Bain & Company, lived on the same floor of the Eldorado co-op as prospective evictee Diane Wells. Tierney does not in fact live in the building.