The Real Deal New York

Three Manhattanites seek Sandy-related damages from landlords across New York

Suit aims to represent tenants statewide, targets Ogden Cap and Sol Goldman estate initially
By Zachary Kussin | January 30, 2013 06:18PM

Three young Manhattanites have launched a proposed class action on behalf of all New York State tenants who paid rent in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — when many apartment dwellers were left without electricity, heat, hot water and elevator service — and are allegedly owed refunds. Though the suit ultimately seeks to hold hundreds of landlords and property management companies accountable, the initial defendants are the Milstein family’s Ogden Cap Properties, the estate of Sol Goldman and the owner of an East Village property.

The plaintiffs — Briana Adler, Lauren Schoenfeld and Perri Steiner — claim that the damages exceed $150,000 for rent payments in storm-affected buildings left uninhabitable in late October, November and beyond. The suit, filed Friday in New York State Supreme Court, seeks to include as class members an unknown number of individuals in similar circumstances.

Adler lives at Windsor Court, a 709-unit, 31-story residential property located at 155 East 31st Street in Murray Hill that is owned and operated by Ogden Cap. Schoenfeld lives at the Washington Irving House, a 234-unit property at 145 East 16th Street in Gramercy, owned by an affiliate of the estate of Sol Goldman and operated by Solil Management. Lastly, Steiner is a tenant at 17 Stuyvesant Street, a 20-unit building in the East Village owned and operated by Tres Realty LLC. The owners and operators are all named as defendants, but did not respond to requests for comment or could not be reached.

Though the buildings are now habitable, they lacked electricity for six days after the Oct. 29 storm, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Barbara Hart of Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart. The suit adds that they also did not have functional elevators.

“They shouldn’t have to chase their landlord for this,” Hart told The Real Deal, referring to the plaintiffs. “That’s why we ended up filing a lawsuit.”

The crux of the plaintiffs’ argument is that, under New York Real Property Law, landlords and management companies are obligated to keep their premises habitable for every lease at the property. “This obligation is not excused even by natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy,” the complaint said.

Accordingly, those who both accepted and kept rent payments during the time when Sandy left properties unlivable must return the money, the suit claims.

A spate of Sandy-related tenant lawsuits has followed in the wake of the storm. Last week, residents of 1 West Street sued the Moinian Group and Douglas Elliman Property Management over their response to the storm. Residents of the nearby 88 Greenwich Street also sued over allegations that building management did not take precautions against flooding, as did tenants at 2 Gold Street.