Here is an opportunity to help prevent others from having to know the horrors of an unfit landlord.
Rate Whitehouse Estates by clicking on this link.
This as a public service that will benefit your fellow New Yorkers!
( It seems we are not the only ones who feel the need to warn the public – Here is a new website dedicated to William Koeppel. )
TURTLE BAY — Several tenants of a Turtle Bay high-rise have banded together to sue their landlord for allegedly overcharging on rents, marking yet another battle for a building plagued by controversy.
Nine residents of 350 E. 52nd St., a 130-unit tower near First Avenue, filed a class-action lawsuit against landlord William Koeppel last month, claiming he has been charging illegally high rents for apartments that should be rent-stabilized.
In the new lawsuit, the tenants at 350 E. 52nd Street claim that Koeppel received J-51 tax benefits for two decades but still charged higher rents on some apartments as they became vacant.
Under the J-51 program, if a landlord performs qualifying work on a building — which could include maintenance work, like roof repairs or waterproofing — the building can apply for a real estate tax abatement, said William Gribben, an attorney representing the tenants in the case.
Residents at 350 E. 52nd Street filed a lawsuit filed on Oct. 17, 2011, alleging overcharges on their rent. (DNAinfo/Mary Johnson)
If the building receives those tax benefits, the landlord must treat all the apartments in that building as rent-stabilized, Gribben added.
“Defendants have wrongfully treated and continue to wrongfully treat plaintiffs and the putative class members as market rent tenants, denying them a variety of benefits to which they are legally entitled, as well as charging them amounts in excess of the legal rents for their units,” read the lawsuit, filed Oct. 17 in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The case comes on the heels of the recent ruling in Roberts v. Tishman Speyer, which involved the apartments in the 80-acre Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village complex. The judge in that case ruled that buildings participating in the J-51 tax abatement program have to maintain rent-stabilized apartments, despite many residents there being charged market rates.
The new suit is just the latest in a series of disputes at the building.
Koeppel, who reportedly pled guilty in 1996 to pressuring tenants and brokers to contribute to the Giuliani campaign, refused last year to sign a new contract with 32BJ, the city’s doormen’s union.
Since then, tenants said security problems have increased and that the rotating crew of new doormen are not as vigilant as their union counterparts. One resident even reported that a guest was given a key to an apartment without that resident’s permission, tenants and advocates said.
In addition to the security problems, residents have publicly complained about problems with rats, mice and maggots in and around the building.
There is even a snarky blog, titled the 350 E. 52nd Street Reality Show, set up to chronicle the building’s dramatic tale as it unfolds.
In August, the tenants held a press conference with several elected officials, including State Senator Liz Krueger and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, calling for an end to the deteriorating conditions.
But Kirk Swanson, one of the tenants involved in the suit, said the recent legal action is unrelated to the ongoing complaints.
“This is a complete, straightforward legal issue,” Swanson said, noting that the suit would not have any impact on the doormen’s strike or the quality-of-life issues.
“We filed a class-action lawsuit, and we are going to get rent refunds,” he added. “We are going to get stabilized leases, and we are going to get reduced rent through the legal process.”
Koeppel, however, called the suit “frivolous.”
“It is much to do about nothing,” the landlord said. “What they’re asking for in the lawsuit is that the building be re-registered as rent-stabilized. It’s been done.”
Koeppel said that, upon the advice of his attorney, he hired a consultant to come in and help him bring the building’s apartments into compliance with the law.
“Anybody who’s properly entitled to money back from an overcharge will be getting it,” Koeppel added.
But the tenants’ attorney, William Gribben, said that the landlord has still not fulfilled his legal requirements.
Gribben said he has also advised tenants not to sign any new leases that Koeppel distributes in the building because they may not be legal.
That means residents like Swanson will continue paying their current rents until the case is resolved.
“[Koeppel is] trying to retroactively register these apartments after breaking the law for all these years,” Swanson said. “This is why we have to take him to court.”
November 10, 2011 09:00AM
William Koeppel and 350 East 52nd Street (building credit: PropertyShark)The latest lawsuit to emerge from the dust of the controversial J-51 tax rulings at Stuyvesant Town was filed by tenants of 350 East 52nd Street against landlord William Koeppel, Crain’s reported.
Tenants of the 132-unit building allege Koeppel “wrongly treated … plaintiffs and the putative class members as market-rent tenants” even after accepting J-51 tax benefits for building upgrades. The tenants are being represented by William Gribben, a partner at Himmelstein McConnell Gribben Donoghue & Joseph. The firm has about nine other J-51 cases.
Koeppel called the lawsuit “frivolous,” saying it is led by a tenant who is a member of SEIU 32 BJ, a union with which Koeppel recently opted out of a contract. Koeppel also said he sent notices informing tenants that they were owed back rents, but Gribben said that was just a reaction to the lawsuit.
Koeppel is famous for pleading guilty to soliciting donations for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani in return for rent-controlled apartments in 1996, Crain’s noted. source
and, also in the news today . . .
New York, NY – November 10, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — Tenants at Whitehouse Estates at 350 East 52nd Street in Manhattan will be joined by striking apartment building workers, elected officials and supporters today to announce the filing of a lawsuit that claims building owner William Koeppel has been illegally overcharging on rentsfor years.
According to the lawsuit, tenants at the 85-unit complex discovered that the building was covered by the J-51 law, which means the owner received certain tax advantages in return for pledging to rent stabilize a portion of the building. The tenants were never informed of this and were charged at market rate, the suit states. Tenants have also been protesting the deteriorating conditions at the complex by the landlord that include harassment and neglected maintenance. Koeppel has a history of mistreating tenants, including rent gouging. In the 1990s, he pled guilty to soliciting campaign contributions for Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral campaigns in exchange for rent-regulated leases.
WHAT: Tenants Announce Lawsuit Against Landlord
WHO: Whitehouse Estates Tenants
Whitehouse Estates Building Workers, who have been on strike since June 6
State Senator Liz Krueger
Council Member Jessica Lappin (represents the district)
Kyle Bragg, 32BJ Vice President
WHEN: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm
WHERE: Whitehouse Estates, 350 East 52nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues
With more than 120,000 members, including 70,000 in New York, 32BJ is the largest buildings services union in the country and the largest private-sector union in the state.
Read the entire opinion here.
Despite having a net worth of around $6 million, receiving dividends from Whitehouse Estates of $442,680 in August 2006 and borrowing at least $2,174,503 against his assets from May 2006 through August 2008 (and purchasing a Rolls Royce, albeit pre-owned, in the middle of September 2006), William never sought to disavow the Retainer on the ground of duress.
William’s affirmative defense that the 2006 Retainer is invalid as the product of duress is therefore dismissed.
In his affidavit in opposition, William alleges that the Firms’ hourly charges “have been and are being disputed” and that this “has been conveyed to Mr. Avedisian a number of times.” However, just when and what particular charges he was or is disputing, even at this late date, remain unspecified. Instead, William makes two general points regarding the invoices. First, without referring to any particular invoice, he sweepingly claims that Avedisian “overdoes [*14]things.” Second, he claims that there “were innumerable incidences where Mr. Avedisian would bill [him] for normal office, paralegal, and administrative time that Mr. Avedisian, because he had no secretary or paralegal, would do.” But he fails to specify even one of such “innumerable incidences”; nor does he specify when or how such an objection was made.[FN12] Such belated, conclusory and unsupported claims are insufficient to raise a question of fact on the issue of the accounts stated by the invoices sent to William by the Firms (Warshaw, Burstein, Cohen, Schlesinger & Kuh v Kessner, 214 AD2d 472 [1st Dept 1995]; Rosenman Colin Freund Lewis & Cohen v Neuman, 93 AD2d 745 [1st Dept 1983]). The Firms are therefore granted summary judgment on their claims of accounts stated for hourly litigation work.
REMAINING DEFENSE AND COUNTERCLAIM
William’s last remaining defense against the petition is that the Firms have breached their ethical and fiduciary duties to William by revealing in their papers on this motion his confidences as a client, to his embarrassment and injury. These allegations are also part of the fabric of his counterclaim to the effect that Avedisian drafted the settlement documents to benefit the attorneys to whom he was answerable; that Avedisian failed to advise him that he would owe $7 million in fees upon entering into the settlement; and that Avedisian failed to wind up the closing contemplated by the settlement. But such defense and counterclaim receive little attention in William’s motion papers. Nor does the record otherwise support either, on the facts or the law.
Simply put, William has failed to preserve his claims for trial by laying bare his proofs to show that the Firms disclosed client confidences that would not have been obtainable from outside sources. In any event, the Rules of Professional Conduct permit a lawyer to “reveal or use confidential information to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes necessary . . . to defend the lawyer . . . against an accusation or wrongful conduct; or . . . to establish or collect a fee” (22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 1.6[b] [formerly DR 4-101(C)(4)]). In raising an economic duress claim, William placed his ability to pay for new counsel at issue, and the Firms were thus justified in demonstrating that William at all relevant times had significant net worth and that his liquidity problems were self-inflicted injuries incident to his high-wheeling lifestyle. There is thus no proscribed revelation of client confidences on which to rest William’s claimed defense to the contract.
Beyond merely conclusory statements, William has also failed to substantiate his claim [*15]that Avedisian drafted settlement documents to benefit the Firms and their members rather than him as client. In other words, William’s general sense of betrayal cannot serve as the basis for his breach of fiduciary duty claims.
Footnote 10:William’s bill of particulars describes the frequency of his protests as follows: “On or about once a week during the summer of 2007 and 2008, once a month almost every month from September through May for the years 2005 through 2008.” Avedisian points out that William thus claims to have disputed invoices for months in which no invoices were in fact sent to him for litigation work. On the other hand, Avedisian concedes that there was one occasion on which William did protest an invoice, which billed for work performed at a meeting among counsel in July 2006. Although that meeting had been called to discuss settlement, it appears to have focused instead on litigation issues, and Avedisian billed William accordingly as litigation time. Nevertheless, when William objected, Avedisian voided the charges and did not bill William for the time in question.
Footnote 11:William’s claim that the burden is on the Firms to show which invoices he was making partial payment on is supported by no authority or reasoning, and the court rejects it.