The Real Deal New York

Sandy tenants move to drop co-ops from statewide suit

By Zachary Kussin | June 04, 2013 04:15PM

Three young Manhattanites who sued landlords over Hurricane Sandy-related housing issues moved yesterday to curtail a proposed class action by dropping the renters and owners of co-ops from the suit.

The three residents first filed the proposed class action in January. Briana Adler, Lauren Schoenfeld and Perri Steiner allege that they and all tenants across the state should receive rent reimbursements for the amount of time their homes were without electricity, hot water, heat or functional elevators following the late October storm.

The three renters would eliminate co-ops from the class, in part, “to adhere more tightly to the standing of our class representatives (each of whom is a renter) and enhance the likelihood of the certifiability of the class,” Barbara Hart of Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told The Real Deal.

The motion, filed in the New York State Supreme Court, comes in response to a motion from the initial defendants — including Ogden Cap Properties and the estate of Sol Goldman — to toss the class action. They argued that the proposed plaintiff and defendant classes — every tenant and landlord across the state — were not only improper, but also that some of the initial plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring the suit.

The plaintiffs addressed some of those concerns in yesterday’s motion, naming Matel Realty LLC, an affiliate of initial defendant Tres Realty LLC and the owner of 151 East 31st Street, the building where Adler lives, in the suit.

Ogden, Matel, Tres and the estate of Sol Goldman did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

“This action is an egregious example of an abuse of the class action process as a procedural mechanism,” Mara Levin, an attorney with Herrick, Feinstein LLP who represents the defendants, told The Real Deal, referring to the plaintiffs’ motion. “It was incumbent upon plaintiffs to come forward with a legal basis upon which the class action could be sustained, and they failed to do so.”

The plaintiffs are still months away from officially filing their motion for class certification, according to court papers.

Class action is the only mechanism to deal with the issues at hand, since landlords could harass or retaliate against tenants who file solo suits, the plaintiffs contend.

“Class certification is particularly appropriate here, where the vast majority — if not all — of the class members have sustained damages in amounts insufficient to justify individual lawsuits,” the plaintiffs’ motion said.