Gramercy Starck condo board sues Houston couple over short-term rentals

Guests allegedly threw parties and fought with building staff

Gramercy Starck and Steve Sladkus
Gramercy Starck and Steve Sladkus

The Gramercy Starck condominium board is suing a Houston couple who rented out their apartment for short-term stays, claiming their guests hosted wild parties, defaced doors with obscene graffiti and fought with building staff. The condo owners’ actions allegedly violated the city’s multiple dwelling law, designed to curb illegal hotel operations.

A New York State judge on Feb. 8 issued a temporary restraining order against the couple, Robert and Marilyn Blodgett, who allegedly rented out the unit through an online apartment rental service called Luxe VR.

The condo board claims that the Blodgetts rented out their 340 East 23rd Street apartment to no fewer than 27 different visitors since August 2011 for stays of less than 30 days, and ignored multiple notices from the board to stop the short-term stays, according to a complaint filed Feb. 6 in New York State Supreme Court.

The latest visitor, a guest named Malcolm Kee, allegedly hosted large parties at the apartment and when confronted by building staff, either Kee, a companion or one of his party guests defaced a neighbor’s door with a depiction of male genitalia, the complaint says.

In January, Kee’s companion got into a verbal altercation with two different doormen, allegedly trying to beat down the door after a staff member temporarily locked the front entrance during an overnight shift, and later cursing out a second staffer.

“Every effort was made beforehand to resolve this matter in an amicable fashion, but the Blodgetts apparently wanted nothing of it,” said Steve Sladkus, co-chair of the real estate department at Wolf Haldenstein and attorney for the condo board.

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Andrew Spinell, a Manhattan-based attorney who represents the Blodgetts, denied the allegations, telling The Real Deal that the couple, who run a nursing home in Houston, rented out the unit for long term stays. Warning letters were sent to the Gramercy condo address and not to their Houston residence, he said, adding that the Blodgetts’ son, Christopher, has now moved into the unit.

“There shouldn’t be any problems in the future,” he said. “The thing they object to is that nobody really notified them.”

The Blodgetts bought the condo at the 133-unit building, developed by Victor Homes, in 2008 for about $764,000, public records show.

The suit marks the latest legal battle involving short-term rental stays at condos, in the wake of the city’s May 2011 revision to the multiple dwelling law that clarified what constitutes a short-term stay.

In January, the South Star filed suit against a financial analyst alleging she rented out her apartment for short term stays. The analyst, Sophie Grishanova, now faces fines and a contempt order for failing to appear at her hearing. (An attorney has denied the allegations, telling The Real Deal that she never violated the multiple dwelling law or condo bylaws.)