Puerile posters? Spray painting? It all sounds pretty childish. "The judge kind of felt the same way," Braverman says — quickly adding, "I didn't necessarily advise them to do it!"
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman, who is hearing the case, said at a June 22 hearing that "she would issue an order saying the board will take the poster down and reactive the fob, provided Mr. Nahoum starts paying their common charges beginning with the July payment," the attorney says. "He would have been required under this conditional order to pay 25 percent of the arrears, in July, along with current common charges, and 25 percent each of the next three months. The items came down right away with the hope he would make his payment. He didn't do that. As a result, the order dissolved on July 1."
At the next court hearing, on July 21, Goodman "expressed her view that the posters ought to be taken down and the board consented to take them down," Braverman says. The board also agreed to allow elevator access to real estate brokers who are trying to sell the apartments.
Little else got decided at that hearing, however. "During the course of the court proceeding, the police, acting on the complaint [the board had filed during the poster incident], arrested Mr. Nahoum," Braverman says. As for how long he may have been held or what the disposition was, "We don't know what happened with regard to the arrest."
The Nahoums' attorney, Solomon J. Jaskiel, of Brooklyn, did not return a call for comment.
Braverman disputes that the Nahoums had any basis for withholding common charges. "We emphatically deny that repairs were not made or that any damage was caused to his property, or that he was entitled to reduction to his common charges because of giving back space in a 2008 settlement agreement," he says. "The 2008 agreement was heavily negotiated. This issue did come up and it was agreed there would be no declaration. There's nothing in the settlement agreement that talks about an adjustment of the common interest."
Even if there had been, he adds, all but 306 of the 1,050 square feet returned is mechanical space that Braverman says is not part of the common interest, and only counted in the building's floor-area ratio (FAR), a figure used for zoning considerations and other municipal issues. "So even assuming [Nahoum's view] for the sake of argument, and we don't concede this at all, we're talking about a few bucks a month against what next week will probably be $150,000 in common charges plus interest."
Nahoum, in his lawsuit, also claims that, "Plaintiff's minor children have been subject to curses by members of the Board."
"We deny that," Braverman says. "He hasn't been able to articulate who allegedly did this."
In the bigger picture, the widely publicized case has become a study in what practical pressure a condo board can put on unit-owners who are in arrears, given that current laws tie a board's hands since legal remedies can cost far more in most cases than the amounts of the arrears themselves. "There are some New York cases out there that say it's permissible for a board to take away owner privileges and to use amenity spaces such as a parking spot, a gym, a pool," Braverman says. "Maybe concierge amenities — I've had some buildings that did it. I don't know ultimately whether that will be enforced," although, he notes, having someone to accept your dry-cleaning for you is not an inalienable right.
The parties return to court Sept. 22.
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