Harlem residents fight developer’s $4.25M suit

1831 Madison Ave.
1831 Madison Ave.

Residents of a city-subsidized Harlem co-op are pushing back after being hit with a $4.25 million lawsuit by the developer for complaining about inferior construction and repairs.

Madison Park Development Associates, led by BFC Partners managing principal Donald Capoccia, filed a defamation and interference lawsuit against three 1831 Madison Ave. residents over their complaints to politicians about shoddy construction and repairs at the nine-story building.

Madison Park, which used city financing to build the co-op for middle-income New Yorkers at E. 119th St., claims that Judith Febbraro, Gerald Magpily and Ellen Ackrish “disseminated false and defamatory information” in a 2012 letter to politicians and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The suit also says the three weren’t authorized to write on behalf of the whole co-op.

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The homeowners claim, however, that their letter had dozens of residents’ signatures and was an innocent plea for assistance. They say the building has had leaks since it was built in 2002.

“I have no problem with people raising fact-based concerns, but when they make things up, we have no choice but to defend our record,” said Capoccia, who argues that the building is now in good shape. The suit seeks a $1.25 million judgment and $1 million in damages from each of the defendants.

The homeowners say the lawsuit is a bullying tactic by Capoccia, who is president of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.

“Tenants should not have to fear being sued for millions of dollars about problems with their housing conditions,” said Yetta Kurland, the lawyer for the homeowners. “New York’s civil rights law makes it illegal to sue a private citizen who speaks out on public issues.” [NYDN] —TRD