New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

WACKY EVICTION ILLEGAL HOTEL

Wacky Eviction Illegal Hotel

Illegal hoteling and short-term rentals plague many a co-op and condo board. Rarely, however, has a co-op shareholder concocted so brazen a set of stories, so oddball a skein of scenarios, that the judge in the eviction case uses phrases like "outlandish explanations," "defy credibility," "damaging and incoherent testimony" and "never slept in the same bed, but shared physical affection."

Chi Lee DiGrazia ostensibly ran a colon-hydration business — how can you not love this already? — in apartment 1B of the co-op at 139 East 30th Street in Manhattan. In July 2011, she told the co-op board she had four employees including Rachelle A. Cid, her receptionist by day, her housekeeper by night. DiGrazia also asserted Cid lived there, as did Poonam Arora, variously identified as DiGrazia's roommate, domestic partner and domestic help. She also told the board, "Rachelle’s boyfriend and my stepson sometime stay overnight."

A couple of days later, DiGrazia sent the managing agent an e-mail:

  • "Due to holiday and vacation season, I will be away from my apartment for weeks and my immediate extended DiGrazia Family members such as my current husband (Donald DiGrazia), stepsons, stepdaughters and step nephews (Damion, Share, Jaden and christion [sic] DiGrazia) will help me do my duty have key access to my apartment. If you see some new young goodlooking caucasian faces in and out with key to the building and my apartment please be aware of this."

And if that weren't enough of a red flag, this June 2011 Internet ad (reprinted verbatim) was a veritable Christo installation of red flags:

  • "We use most newest colonic machine in the market to service you at most comfortable rooms. The room rates is daily, weekly and monthly at your treatments need. The rooms are located at most tourist attration areas at mid twon of Manhattan in New York City and Waterfront Freeport Long island Village of fishing and boating at your own backyard.
  • "Single rooms, daily, weekly and monthly rate. Single private room with window aircondition share bathroom and kitchen with two other femals.
  • Manhattan location at $95 per day, $250 per week and $900 per month."

After perhaps rolling its eyes and shaking its head, the board — which already had begun legal proceedings in May — sent a notice on July 27, 2011, saying DiGrazia had 15 days to end the illegal hoteling or find her own tenancy terminated under the appropriate paragraphs of the proprietary lease.

Here's where it gets interesting. OK, even more interesting.

On August 18, 2011, DiGrazia told the board she had separated from her husband and had been "living with her girlfriend and domestic partner," Arora, in the apartment since May 2009, according to Judge Sabrina B. Kraus' Oct. 1 decision in Andrada Owners Corp. v. DiGrazia. DiGrazia now said Rachelle Cid's boyfriend, Christian, didn't just stay over occasionally but that he lived there. She also claimed the hotel ad was a "mistake" and that she had corrected it from "$95 per night" to "$95 per service." Oh, and "someone else" put it on the Internet.

My Husband, My Partner, My Husband, My Partner

The court, after hearing testimony, not surprisingly had its own view. It found DiGrazia was actually subletting to, and not a domestic partner of, Arora — of whom DiGrazia had "made so many contradictory statements about the nature of her relationship … that her testimony cannot be considered reliable." As for the "current" husband, DiGrazia said they were now separated.

By this time, according to the court, DiGrazia wasn't living in the apartment but was subletting what had been a one-bedroom apartment now subdivided into three rooms, each with "a padlock on the door." One was sublet to Cid, another to Arora and the third to  Christian DiGrazia — Cid's supposed boyfriend. "Cid," wrote the judge, "provided no credible testimony which would support [DiGrazia's] claim that Christian DiGrazia was there as her boyfriend, rather than as another subtenant." Cid did testify that when apartment-owner Chi Lee DiGrazia occasionally slept over, Chi Lee would sleep on a massage table and not in "girlfriend and domestic partner" Arora's room. Cid also acknowledged there was no receptionist desk, that she never spoke with any "patients" or observed any "patient" making a payment.

Not that Cid's testimony came easily, what with her trying to interpret signals from DiGrazia like a ballplayer with his third-base coach. As the judge wrote, "Cid's testimony about her receptionist and housekeeping duties was particularly lacking in credibility, and [DiGrazia] appeared to be attempting to coach Cid in her answers during her testimony by making gestures."

Next page: Sleeping with the Frenemy >>

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