African buyer demands ruling in co-op race bias suit

Board has missed deadline to respond to discrimination allegations

New York /
Mar.March 20, 2013 06:30 PM

UPDATED at 3.40 p.m. March 22: It’s not often that an apartment buyer calls out a stuffy co-op board for failing to provide the proper documents — usually it’s the other way around. But an African buyer who sued the board of 210 East 36th Street for racial discrimination has asked the judge to rule on his claims earlier than planned, since the board has apparently missed several deadlines to respond to his allegations.

Mauritius native Goldwyn Thandrayen, in a New York State Supreme Court lawsuit filed in October, alleged that the board rejected his all-cash offer because of his nationality, breaking the city’s fair housing laws.

He filed for a default judgment today, saying that the judge has sufficient evidence from his side to rule on the case. The co-op board and its members have received a summons and a complaint but have failed to file opposing court papers, he noted.

Thandrayen, who is seeking $1 million in damages, claims he put down the full $400,000 sales price — as well as a $30,000 guarantee and $15,000 for yearly maintenance fees — to buy an apartment last year at the 102-unit Murray Hill building. He claims the board members made strange requests of him, such as asking to have his British application documents translated into American English, and demonstrated their bias in emails.

Aileen Grossmann, a board member, allegedly admitted in emails to a fellow board member that Thandrayen had the necessary funds to make the purchase but said she was uncomfortable with the fact that his funds were mostly held in Mauritius. Grossmann is a residential real estate broker with Town Residential and has done deals in the building. She is one of seven members of the co-op board named in legal documents.

“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 [sic] either.”

In the documents requesting a default judgment on the case, Thandrayen also cites emails between board members in which they allegedly suggest creating a policy that would require foreign buyers to put maintenance fees in an escrow account as a condition of board approval.

“This is the very definition of discrimination and this case is an example of the type of behavior that the city and state housing discrimination statutes seek to prevent,” the filing said.

Marc Fitapelli, the attorney representing Thandrayen declined to comment on the default judgment petition.

Grossman said is a statement to The Real Deal that the board of directors at the building believe Thandrayen’s claims are without merit.

“[We] believe the court will determine that Mr. Thandrayen’s claims are baseless and that he failed to qualify for approval based upon matters having nothing to do with his allegations,” she said, declining to comment further on the advice of her attorney.


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