New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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LEGAL/FINANCIAL

HOW LEGAL/FINANCIAL PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED BY NYC CO-OPS AND CONDOS

Judge Orders Trump Supporter to Remove “Distress Signal”

Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan

Flag Dispute
May 17, 2018

Eddie Desmond is a union electrician and Trump supporter who shares the president's view that this country is in big trouble. So Desmond hung an upside-down American flag – a widely recognized distress signal – from a third-floor window in his Hell’s Kitchen condo apartment. The condo board claimed Desmond’s flag violates the building’s rules against putting anything in “common areas,’’ which include the building’s exterior. The board ordered him to remove the flag. Desmond refused. The condo board sued. 

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Franc Perry has issued a seven-page decision that sides with the condo board, ruling that Desmond “has violated the declaration, bylaws and rules” of the condominium association. The judge decreed that Desmond cannot deny building staff entry to his apartment to remove the flag and flag pole. 

“We asked him to remove it from the window and put it inside his apartment,” says the condo board’s attorney, Bruce Cholst, a shareholder at Anderson Kill. “This wasn’t about patriotism or political suppression. This was about safety. We were worried that the flag pole would breach the waterproofing membrane, and the flag was hanging over a courtyard used by pedestrians.” 

Desmond insists that his upside-down flag is sending an important message. “It’s not to be used lightly,” he tells the New York Post. “It’s life and liberty that are at stake here. It’s the American flag. To me, there’s nothing more important. Good men have died for this flag. You can’t let them die in vain.”

What’s at stake here, as far as Cholst is concerned, is the importance of rules and a condo board’s power to enforce them. “Your home is not your castle,” he says. “When you buy into communal home ownership, you have to give up a degree of autonomy and follow the rules that are there for the good of the community.” 

Desmond says he plans to appeal the ruling.

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