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Spat Over Disability Accommodations Lands Brooklyn Co-op Board in Court

Kensington, Brooklyn

Disability accommodations, lawsuit, co-op board, objectionable conduct.

The Caton Towers co-op on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn is home to a legal brawl.

May 12, 2023

It's a case of "she said, they said." And it could happen only in a New York City co-op.

Jacqueline Peters, a woman with multiple disabilities, became a shareholder in the Caton Towers co-op in Brooklyn in 2019. Her requests for accommodations for her disabilities started before she moved in, and they have since mushroomed into a legal brawl with the co-op board, which is now trying to auction off Peters' shares and, if necessary, mount an eviction proceeding, The New York Post reports.

In correspondence included in court filings, the co-op board has called Peters disruptive and objectionable, complaining that she complains too much. “Your behavior is harassment and your conduct is objectionable,” one of the co-op’s lawyers, Theresa Racht, wrote to her. “You are . . . failing to live cooperatively with your neighbors.”

But the board won’t say exactly what Peters has done wrong, claims her lawyer, Ian Brandt of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. “Did she break all the hallway lights with a baseball bat or threaten to stab the super with a pencil?” he asks. “There is no itemization or detailing of any factual allegations against her.”

You see where this is going.

Another lawyer for the co-op board, Steven Anderson of Anderson & Ochs, adds, “Nobody questions that people with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations, but that doesn’t mean you get whatever you want. If you don’t want to live by the co-op’s rules, don’t buy in a co-op. We believe we have acknowledged Ms. Peters’s disabilities and given her reasonable accommodations. She claimed we weren’t accommodating her disabilities. We claimed we were.

Peters has been diagnosed with dysautonomia, myalgic encephalomyelitis (sometimes called chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, arthritis, mast cell disorder, peripheral neuropathy and herniated discs. Her list of complaints — over cigarette smoke, the denial of her request for a washing machine, even the caulking used during mandated Local Law 11 facade repairs, and more — has led the co-op board to classify her conduct as objectionable. That means this is a “Pullman case,” named for the groundbreaking decision, 20 years ago, when a man named David Pullman was voted out of his Upper West Side co-op after accusations of objectionable conduct. That influential decision set a new standard that strengthened the power of co-op boards.

Currently, the court has halted the co-op’s scheduled date to auction off Peters’s unit. “Ms. Peters will have time to gather her belongings and can move in some reasonable time schedule,” Anderson says. “The co-op is not intending that she be thrown out in the street.”

Stories like this are enough to make you think twice before joining your co-op board. Or applying to law school.

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