Town broker named in co-op race bias suit

As board member, Aileen Grossmann called Mauritius a "tiny little unknown country"

TRD New York /
Feb.February 11, 2013 03:30 PM

An African buyer who sued the notoriously stuffy co-op board at 210 East 36th Street, claiming they rejected his all-cash offer because of his nationality, has implicated Town Residential broker Aileen Grossmann in the proceedings for allegedly spearheading the discrimination.

Grossmann, who has appeared on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” is one of seven members of the co-op board at the 102-unit Murray Hill building. Along with her fellow members, she was personally named as a defendant in an amended complaint filed last week, for allegedly sending emails to other board members saying she was wary of buyer Goldwyn Thandrayen’s country of origin. The suit, filed in October, did not initially name the individuals involved.

Though Grossmann admitted in emails that Thandrayen had the necessary funds to make the purchase, the broker referred to his native Mauritius as a “tiny little unknown country” in an August email to a fellow board member.

“I would not consider any foreign accounts in a co-op sale package,” she said in the email, “especially when there is virtually no money in U.S. dollars and their entire portfolio is in some tiny little unknown country. It’s not like it’s in British pounds or Euro either.”

In his lawsuit, Thandrayen said he put down the entire $400,000 sale price of the apartment, as well as $30,000 as a guarantee and $15,000 for yearly maintenance fees before being rejected by the board last spring.

The board allegedly made strange requests of the Mauritius native, asking him to have his British application documents translated into American English, for instance. The executive made his money in global real estate investments and in the refrigerator business, it was previously reported.

While co-op boards generally have free reign to reject applicants based on the silliest of reasons, fair housing laws in New York City prohibit discrimination based on age, nationality, race, family status or gender. If found liable in this instance, Grossmann could be forced to cough up a percentage of the $1 million in damages sought by the plaintiff in the case.

Grossmann, who declined to comment on the accusations, has done a number of deals in the building, brokering at least four sales there in the last 18 months, according to her Town agent’s page. She has lived in the building since 2005, when she paid $390,000 for her ninth-floor apartment, public records show.

A representative for Town, which is not involved in the deal or the lawsuit, declined to comment on the litigation. An attorney for the plaintiff also declined to comment.


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