Irony rules: Crown Heights family claiming ownership uses tenant protections

Judge gives Robinsons time to pursue claims of deed theft

New York /
Mar.March 02, 2022 08:45 AM
Housing Court Judge Jack Stoller and 964 Park Place (NY Courts, Google Maps)

Housing Court Judge Jack Stoller and 964 Park Place (NY Courts, Google Maps)

The Crown Heights family that re-entered their home — alleging deed theft — after being evicted last month can stay put for now, a housing court judge ruled this week.

The decision brought a certain irony to the case: The family will leverage state tenant protections to pursue claims that they are not tenants at all.

Judge Jack Stoller paused the eviction and restored possession to the family, headed by 98-year-old Ida Robinson, while the court investigates whether the matriarch’s grandaughter filed for emergency rental assistance, Law 360 reported. That would provide eviction protection while the application is reviewed and for up to a year if it’s approved.

The Robinsons say Ida is the rightful owner of 964 Park Place, so the claim of tenancy could complicate that claim, which they intend to pursue in state Supreme Court.

The order came Monday after a housing court judge decided to revisit the early-February eviction warrant issued against the family. Sherease Torain, Robinson’s granddaughter, had contested the eviction and filed an illegal lockout proceeding against the landlord, Menachem Gurevitch, mid-month.

Before the court date last week, Torain submitted an affidavit claiming she had applied for emergency rental assistance and Gurevitch had failed to notify the court of her application, Law360 reported.

Torain’s initial application was denied; however, she contends that she submitted an appeal, which Gurevitch would have been required to share with the court. Gurevitch argues that the Robinsons have not “proven that an appeal is pending,” according to court documents.

“The ERAP portal confirmed that Sherease Torain did not file an appeal of the denial prior to the eviction,” a spokesperson for the landlord said, referring to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The owner backed up his claim with a photo of the ERAP portal showing no pending application or appeal at 964 Park Place.

While that case is decided, Adam Birnbaum, an attorney for the Robinsons, told Law360 he will seek a temporary restraining order to block any eviction while he pursues claims that Ida Robinson was defrauded in a deed theft scheme.

The case stems from a 2015 buy-back agreement between Ida Robinson and a limited liability company, court documents show.

The seemingly one-sided deal shows Robinson agreed to sell her home for $800,000 and pay the LLC $5,500 a month in rent. It also said the family could repurchase the home after two years for $1.4 million. If they fell behind on rent, the owner would have the right to evict them, the agreement stipulated.

Things immediately got messy. The agreement had guaranteed Robinson the first right to purchase the home. But within days, the property was re-sold to another LLC which then transferred ownership to Gurevitch.

After Robinson stopped paying rent six months into her alleged tenancy, Gurevitch filed an eviction case against her. And months later, Robinson threw her own suit into the ring, claiming she had been tricked into signing over the deed.

In a recent filing by Birnbaum, Robinson attests she never authorized anyone to sell her home and did not execute the documents to transfer the title. Rather, she thought she was refinancing a $455,000 mortgage she had obtained from a subprime lender in early 2007.

Robinson’s case against Gurevitch was dismissed in 2017, which allowed the eviction suit against her to proceed.

However, the documents Birnbaum submitted to the court offer fresh support for Robinson’s claim of deed theft. The attorney outlines that landlords working to dupe homeowners into transferring a deed often create an LLC specifically for the transaction — a factor in the Robinson case — and characterize the transfer documents as a refinancing.

The LLC then transfers the deed to a second or third owner to complicate the paper trail, as happened with Robinson. Birnbaum said the nonagenarian still has a legal path to reclaim ownership of 964 Park Place.

Gurevitch has argued that the family can’t pursue new claims because of res judicata, a legal principle barring parties from litigating an issue as a result of a previous judgment on the same matter, Law360 reported.

A spokesperson for the landlord told Law360 that the Monday decision is an “egregious misuse of measures created during the pandemic to help struggling tenants.”

Birnbaum said he doesn’t believe that the recent developments in housing court will hurt Ida Robinson’s case in the Supreme Court.





    Related Articles

    arrow_forward_ios
    L-R: Savanna's Chris Schlank, Eastdil Secured's Will Silverman, JLL's Bob Knakal (Photos by Paul Dilakian)
    Office royalty talk conversions, distress and the “downsize upgrade” trend
    Office royalty talk conversions, distress and the “downsize upgrade” trend
    Columbia Property Trust's Nelson Mills and 799 Broadway (Columbia Property Trust, 799 Broadway, iStock)
    Columbia Property Trust signs investment firm to 71K sf at 799 Broadway
    Columbia Property Trust signs investment firm to 71K sf at 799 Broadway
    East End Capital's Jonathon Yormak and 141 East Houston Street (141 East Houston Street, East End Capital)
    Boutique LES office scores blockchain firm as anchor tenant
    Boutique LES office scores blockchain firm as anchor tenant
    Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc and 225 Broadway (Getty Images, Google Maps, iStock)
    Refinery29 subleasing at 225 Broadway for move in with Vice
    Refinery29 subleasing at 225 Broadway for move in with Vice
    Naftali Group's Miki Naftali, BRP Companies' Meredith Marshall (Photos by Paul Dilakian)
    Miki Naftali, Meredith Marshall talk development, death of 421a
    Miki Naftali, Meredith Marshall talk development, death of 421a
    R-L: Willow's Kevin Danehy, Era Ventures' Clelia Warburg Peters, Fifth Wall's Brad Greiwe and The Real Deal's Hiten Samtani (Photo by Paul Dilakian)
    Real estate tech is coming for your business
    Real estate tech is coming for your business
    Industrious CEO Jamie Hodari and CBRE chief financial and investment officer Emma Giamartino (LinkedIn, CBRE)
    CBRE doubles down on flex-office provider Industrious
    CBRE doubles down on flex-office provider Industrious
    New York skyline
    Rising interest rates will dampen city’s investment sales market this year
    Rising interest rates will dampen city’s investment sales market this year
    arrow_forward_ios

    The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

    Loading...