Nikolai Fraiture used to tear up New York concert halls with his music in the late 90s as bassist and founding member of legendary indie rock band The Strokes.
Lately, his riffs have turned from the club to a co-op board.
Fraiture and his wife Illona are suing their Hudson Square co-op for playing favorites with a real estate power couple next door. The Fraitures claim the board at 44 King Street has allowed their neighbors to delay mandated repair work on an illegal wall. That has prevented the Fraitures from moving in, while allowing their neighbors continued access to a backyard garden.
Nikolai and Illona say they are even paying their neighbor’s electric bill at the brownstone because of a connected meter, according to their suit.
In other words, the Fraitures allege they have been “Taken for a Fool,” to quote a Strokes song.
The couple bought their front parlor unit and basement unit at 44 King in August 2019, with plans to combine the two units. Streeteasy recorded a sale the same month for units 1 and 2 in the building. The two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot property sold for $2.5 million. The buyer was not listed.
The Fraitures could not combine their units because of their neighbors, real estate power couple Toby Dodd, the tri-state president at Cushman & Wakefield; and Julie de Pontbriand, a WeWork vice president. Dodd and de Pontbriand own the parlor-floor unit at 42 King, which includes a small slice of 44 King.
Dodd is also president of the co-op board at 42 King and now vice president of the board at 44. Both three-story luxury walkups have just four units each. Dodd and de Pontbriand did not immediately respond to an email message for comment.
He and his wife did not repair their wall, which the board had instructed them to do when they moved into the building in January 2019, the suit noted.
As part of their occupancy, Dodd and his wife had to patch up openings in the wall, which had been performed years earlier. Those openings had allowed access to a back garden, but were illegal. The couple had a year to complete those repairs, the board told them, which they didn’t do, according to the suit. They did enjoy the back garden, the suit contends.
Dodd and his wife did submit two plans to fix the wall, both of which the co-op board at 44 King denied, calling them “woefully inadequate,” the suit alleges.
The board also voted to serve a notice of default on the couple for breaking the agreement, which required the repairs be completed by December 2019. That default notice was never recorded in meeting minutes, the suit said, one of several record-keeping lapses referenced in the complaint.
“The board’s decision to turn a blind eye to the dangers posed by the openings in the party wall has been driven solely by the self-interest of the Dodds,” according to the Fraitures’ suit. “The only explanation is that the board placed the interests of individual shareholders (namely, the Dodds) above the interests of the co-op as a whole.”
The city Department of Buildings has also found violations with connected plumbing, fire protection and other issues between the two brownstones.
The Fraitures are seeking an undisclosed amount. They are also demanding the necessary repairs be made so they can move in, to quote another Strokes song, “Someday.”