July 20 2010
And I’m not gonna take it anymore. Seems that’s what lots of apartment owners are saying – and doing – not just taking self help steps at home (see, Self Help Justice), but going to court on their own to right perceived wrongs committed by the board or a pesky neighbor. That’s why we’ll be taking a look from time to time at complaints that drive owners to the brink — logical and not. Often it’s the little stuff that rankles, the proverbial last straw after a series of protracted disagreements.
That’s what motivated Greta Pryor, a unit owner and board member at Towers on the Park (301 West 110th Street), a 600 unit twin tower condo in the shadow of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, whose intervention may be the best chance of resolving the situation.
By her own admission, Pryor, who got on the board four years ago, has had a contentious relationship with most of her fellow board members. “If I say blue, they say red.” Finally, she got so riled up that she brought not one, but two, actions in Civil Court – one against the board president, and another against one of the principals in Tudor Realty Services, the condo’s managing company — all for a $750 engineering fee she says she was wrongfully charged. It’s not the money, it’s the principle, she insisted, a sentiment I suspect many of you out there can relate to.
The contretemps started last year when an engineering consultant was hired to review the building’s air conditioning spec. According to Pryor, seven out of nine board members, voted to retain the engineer, while she voted against it, and another member abstained.
Fast forward to the present. Pryor claims that without reason she – and no one else – was billed the $750 fee incurred for the building-wide spec. She sued for breach of contract for $10,000, and also for libel against the board president, claiming,”Defendant wrote emails to other members of Condo board, Condo architect & Management company stating, Greta acted outside her authority and Greta needs to reimburse the building.” None of the other parties would comment on the matter.
Afraid the board would slap her for arrears for not paying a sum she says she doesn’t owe, which under building rules could have prevented her from running for the board, she sued when they refused to remove the charge by May 3rd. Two weeks later the charges were reversed, a result Pryor believes she wouldn’t have obtained without the lawsuit. So what does she want now that she’s been reimbursed? An admission of wrongdoing – and an apology.
Not likely, I thought, given the way these situations usually work out. But if you can believe it, there’s precedent for precisely this remedy at The Towers. Two years ago two different board members had an air conditioning related fight that sent one to court claiming the other had libeled her by saying she took a $230 A/C grill. In a rare act of common sense, after fighting for awhile the two entered into a stipulation of settlement that required the mis-stater to send round a corrected memo to all owners. Think anyone read it?