New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Breaking the Mold: A Model Sues Her Condo, Claiming Toxic Apartment

Frank Lovece in Board Operations on September 7, 2012

The Grand Chelsea, 270 W. 17th Street, Chelsea

The Grand Chelsea publicity photo
Sept. 7, 2012

Michelle Buswell, 29, a Victoria's Secret Angel, filed her lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court alleging that The Grand Chelsea, at 270 West 17th Street, and Argo Management have never repaired leaks or remediated flooding damage since October of last year, though multiple residents have complained to both the condominium board and the property manager.

Buswell's attorney did not return media requests for comment. An Argo representative told the New York Post that the company had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

Water, Water, Everywhen

According to the lawsuit, "water leaks and/or infiltration caused flooding in the unit" creating a toxic and health-threatening environment due to "dampness and black mold." A mold inspector she hired to examine her apartment told her in June, the lawsuit said, that "given the hazardous mold contamination, she should vacate the unit as soon as possible."

Buswell — who has appeared in ads for Benetton, Bergdorf Goodman, Jean Paul Gaultier, Oscar de la Renta and others, and has appeared on the covers of overseas editors of Elle and Marie Claire, though not the U.S. versions — has claimed "severe and possibly permanent injuries" and asked for $300,000 in damages.

The model claimed unspecified “severe and possibly permanent injuries” and seeks $300,000 in damages.

You'll Believe a Man Can Frye

It is typically difficult for residents to succeed in mold lawsuits against co-op boards and condominium associations. When making health claims, a plaintiff's expert witness generally must have his or her testimony pass a Frye hearing in order to ascertain whether the opinion is that generally of the scientific community. As well, the emergence of any claimed health issues must be demonstrated as caused by the mold, and not be merely correlative and showing up at the same time.

One-bedroom apartments in the 157-unit, two-building complex designed by architect James Polshek and completed in 1989 list for $800,000 and up, and generally rent in the mid-$3,000 range. The New York Times wrote in October 1988 that the condo's overall effect "is simply of two boxes stuck together" and said the apartments themselves were "also uninspired" and that the ceilings "have a stucco-like finish to avoid the expense of sheetrock ceilings with plaster joints. A majority of the apartments have windowless kitchens and bathrooms, and only one exterior wall for bedroom and living room windows."


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