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Co-op Board Hit With $3.5 Million Lawsuit Over Brown Water

Yorkville, Manhattan

Brown tap water, water filtration systems, alteration agreements, co-op board, lawsuit.
Sept. 19, 2023

Brown water coming out of is a common sight in New York City, especially after a water shutdown. Usually it's caused by sediment in the ancient lines that bring water down from upstate reservoirs. One solution is to install a water filtration system, which can cost as much as $80,000.

That may sound like a lot of money — but not to the co-op board at the 125-unit postwar tower at 190 E. 72nd St. in Yorkville, which has just been hit with a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court from a disgruntled shareholder who claims brown water has been coming out of his taps for the past two years. The plaintiff is billionaire developer Charles Cohen, Crain's reports, and he's seeking $3.5 million in damages, plus interest and attorneys' fees.

“Defendants’ willful and intentional refusal and failure to provide clean, safe and potable water to plaintiffs, and to cure their other defaults as alleged herein, is egregious and quasi-criminal in nature,” according to the lawsuit, which adds that the situation is “serious, ongoing and immediately hazardous.” 

Look a little deeper and what we have here is an argument for alteration agreements that clearly assign liability for problems that arise from apartment renovations.

In 2019, Cohen purchased the apartment for $2.5 million jointly with his daughter and her husband. After a renovation, the couple moved into the apartment with their two young children.

Problems with the water in the 28th-floor home seemed to begin almost immediately, and the color of what was coming out of the tap was just a part of it. One consultant hired by the family to test the liquid concluded that it contained unsafe levels of copper, iron, manganese and lead and should not even be used to wash fruits or vegetables, according to court filings.

But court documents suggest that the co-op board is placing the blame for the poor water quality on pipes installed during Cohen's renovation. According to Cohen's suit, other residents of the co-op are also struggling with tainted water, but none yet seem to have gone after the board to deal with the issue, based on a survey of court records.

So now the lawyers for both sides start racking up legal fees as the case moves through the court system. An $80,000 water filtration system is probably looking like a bargain to the co-op board.

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