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Bathroom Battle Brews in Fifth Avenue Co-op

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Unending Reno

Brisbane House co-op on Fifth Avenue (image via Google Maps).

May 30, 2018

There are many excellent reasons why co-op and condo boards insist on an ironclad alteration agreement when residents set out to modify or combine apartments. One of the very best reasons is the drama now playing out at Brisbane House, a co-op at 1215 Fifth Avenue, at 102nd Street.

There, shareholder Ana Martinez-Sanchez, 81, a retired nurse, has not had a functioning bathroom for the past eight months, the Wall Street Journal reports. She has been caught up in a battle with the co-op board over renovations that date back 40 years, and bills for repairs that have been contested for 18 years. Because of the dispute, according to Martinez-Sanchez, the board has barred her from bringing in her own plumber to fix leaking bathroom pipes in the apartment or filing permits for a second bathroom added during an earlier renovation – without board approval. The board didn’t learn about the illegal bathroom until 2014. 

Last August, the board sent a letter to Martinez-Sanchez ordering her not to turn on the water valves in her bathroom because of leaks. She has been without a working bathroom since. Brisbane House said that once the “improper installation” of the illegal bathroom is removed, “the water supply to the one legitimate bathroom in the apartment can be restored.” 

After a reporter for the Journal inquired about the bathrooms, the board offered to have the building’s plumber disable the illegal bathroom and fix the one that is legal. But Martinez-Sanchez says she is holding out for her own plumber, worried that the building’s plumber would ignore her wishes. During the impasse, she has been using a toilet in the building’s basement and showering at a health club. 

“The board and management of Brisbane House strongly disagree with Ms. Martinez-Sanchez’s accounts of these events,” the board said in a statement. “We simply wish she would cooperate.”

The board probably has another wish – that there had been an ironclad alteration agreement in place in 1978, when the building was converted to a co-op and Martinez-Sanchez became one of the first shareholders.

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