The Sheffield condominium board has gone to court to force the eviction of an alleged male escort who serviced clients from his rental unit at the luxury Midtown West condo tower.
Stephan Greving, who pleaded guilty to one prostitution-related count this past October, was renting the apartment from an Italian couple, who purchased the 33rd floor unit in 2008.
Despite the arrest, however, Greving has allegedly continued to bring clients to the 582-unit building, at 322 West 57th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues. The unit owners — Bruno Cova, co-chair of the Milan office of law firm Paul Hastings, and his wife, Bettina Beck — have not moved to evict him, according to the suit, filed in New York Supreme Court last Thursday.
In response to a complaint from the condo board, the New York Police Department conducted a sting operation on Greving in October, the suit says. An undercover police officer posed as a prospective client and arranged for Greving to perform oral sex in exchange for money, a NYPD spokesperson confirmed.
He was arrested Oct. 27, 2011 at the Sheffield and charged with one misdemeanor count of prostitution, the NYPD spokesperson said. The next day, he pleaded guilty to the charge and was released on his own recognizance, criminal court records show.
Greving did not immediately return a call seeking comment, nor did the attorney representing him in the criminal case. (It was not immediately clear who is representing him in the condo board suit.) He is set to appear before a judge on the criminal matter May 25.
Greving allegedly solicited clients through the male escort website Rentboy.com, using the pseudonym “Dave Bruno.” Bruno’s profile on the site — which is still active — lists the same zip code as the Sheffield’s and advertises sexual services for $325 per session or $1,700 per overnight meeting.
In December, the NYPD received another complaint that Greving was continuing to engage in prostitution in the unit, according to the suit.
The Sheffield’s bylaws prohibit unit owners from using their apartments for illegal activity, and also ban “immoral, improper, offensive or unlawful use,” the suit says. The condo board claims that, in addition to violating the building’s regulations, Greving’s alleged actions put the health, safety and well-being of other residents at risk.
“Since first learning of the situation, the condominium has been enforcing all of its rights and remedies in this case,” Rob Braverman, a partner with Braverman & Associates who is representing the condo board, said in a statement to The Real Deal. “We are pursuing all available legal avenues to put an immediate end to the situation.”
Cova and Beck leased the unit to Greving and a man named David Klopp for $3,150 per month beginning May 15, 2011, according to a copy of the lease filed in court by the condo board. A rider tacked on to the agreement states that the lease itself is also subject to the condo declaration and bylaws.
The condo board is seeking injunctions to stop the alleged prostitution and to compel the owners to start an eviction proceeding, as well as attorney’s fees.
Cova said in an email that he was unaware of the lawsuit and had “not been notified of any court papers.” He did not immediately comment on a copy of the lawsuit provided to him by The Real Deal.
Greving’s alleged trysts came to light through an anonymous letter submitted to the Sheffield’s managing agent, Rose Associates, which took over as the developer of the project from Kent Swig.
The letter writer said he or she had learned of Greving’s alleged activities through a friend, whose husband had enlisted his services, and protested that having a male escort as a neighbor “is lowering the standards of our building” and “putting other tenants in danger.”
The letter continued: “Perhaps if Mr. Greving is having difficulty making his rent, he should consider moving.”
A spokesperson for Rose declined to comment.
Aaron Shmulewitz, an expert in condo law and a partner at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, said the condo board had a strong case, although he noted that Greving had not been convicted.
Shmulewitz, who reviewed the lawsuit but is not involved in the case, predicted that Greving would move out of the apartment and find other accommodations, particularly given the substantial legal fees involved in fighting the condo board’s suit.
“People like this pay at or above market rents because they don’t care, and they’re the only ones willing to do that because they need a haven for their illegal activities,” he said.
As for the unit owners, Shmulewitz speculated that they may be waiting for the condo board to take action against the tenants, but they may also be in the process of hiring an attorney to start an eviction proceeding. Cova and Beck would need to sign some paperwork, but they could do that at a U.S. Consulate in their home country of Italy, Shmulewitz said.
Cova and Beck purchased the unit in October 2008 for more than $1.3 million, property records show.
The first hearing in the condo board case is scheduled for March 19.
Calls to sales representatives for the Sheffield were not immediately returned.