Frank Lovece in Legal/Financial on April 25, 2014
The other family, also numbering five, was that of Alicia Echevarria. They were ahead of the co-op board president's family on the list for three-bedroom apartments, for which both families qualified. No three bedrooms became available, but a four-bedroom apartment did, and without any six-member families in line for it.
Echevarria's family was denied that apartment. The board president's family — same size, further down the line — somehow snagged it, though.
Echevarria sued, saying that if East Midtown Plaza and the City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which administers such subsidized Mitchell-Lama co-ops, were going to waive the rules, it should have been first come, first served. The DHCR said she was right, that the rules shouldn't have been waived, and that it would look for a six-member family for the apartment.
Slipping on Appeal
At this point, Echevarria appealed. And in a unanimous decision in Echevarria v. Wambua (Mathew Wambua having been the DHCR commissioner at the time), Judge Peter Moulton wrote that because Echevarria wasn't eligible for a four-bedroom apartment, and never submitted an application for one, that she hadn't suffered harm and didn't have standing to sue.
So because the co-op board president knew about the available four-bedroom and applied for it even though he was ineligible — and got it, East Midtown Plaza officials said, because no eligible family had applied for it — then he gets to keep it. An additional factor was $3,500 worth of improvements he made to the place.
The Andermanis' attorney, Adam Leitman Bailey, told the New York Law Journal afterward that, "Someone without standing cannot bring a proceeding to undo a matter of discretion made by an administrative agency," adding, "Our clients are happy that this nightmare is finally over and they can enjoy their apartment without being bullied."
What's the lesson here? That a little inside knowledge goes a long way? Or something else? What do you readers think about what happened? Comment below.
East Midtown Plaza image licensed under GNU Free Documentation License. Click to enlarge.
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