UPDATE: The case is still pending and more of our funds are still being spent on this baseless case by Gail and a few members of the board. As soon as possible a detailed update will be posted.
On Tuesday, January 25, 2011 I finally put an end to the harassments and the threats of eviction by the WVH board and won my lawsuit against the WVH board.
This lawsuit has been the object of much speculation, and now that the case is settled I wish to explain and clarify the history of the suit and nature of the dispute. Before I begin to outline the details, I ask you first to ask yourself two questions:
What does it take to raise almost $45,000.00?
What does $45,000.00 buy?
This amount is almost an entire year’s worth of maintenance fees for half a building here.
This amount is a huge portion of the NYSERDA grant we were supposed to get for the sub meter installation.
$45,000.00 could pay for:
Part of the insulation that should have been put in place before we were forced to sub-meter our apartments.
A year’s salary for an employee
Nine years worth of election services.
Any number of capital improvements
Well, your board chose none of these beneficial ways to improve your life with this money. Instead, they chose to sue me and attempted to grab my apartment. That $45,000.00 is sitting in the pockets of attorneys, who were very glad to take it all because of a “spite” suit initiated by the board.
So how did this all come about?
When the sub-metering was announced and we were told they had to go below the circuit breaker box, I was alarmed that the location would be a dangerous one in my apartment. This is because the meter would be right in front of the front door. Between my business where I carry large pieces of equipment in and out all of the time, and the deliveries I get, I was afraid it would be damaged. I did not want to risk putting the sub meter in a high traffic spot. Upon reading the lease, I also discovered that the new meter would be my property (yes…those meters are yours now-see attached: proprietary lease Page 525 -this has not changed in the proprietary lease although the board did try once again to make up arbitrary rules to suit their own position for this case all the while it is a complete contradiction to the lease- see “down by the riverside” excerpt ) and I did not want to assume responsibility for care of something of that nature unless it was in a safe area.
The second reason is that the meter is butt ugly, and it would the first thing you see when you enter my apartment. This poor aesthetic would not contribute to the value of my apartment. Instead it would devalue the apartment. The co-op cannot make atheistic decisions for your home especially ones that devalue the investment. They may require carpeting, but they cannot tell you what color to choose. They may require a smoke detector, but they cannot tell you where to install one.
So, back in May of 2009 I researched the device and the safety rules and guidelines that applied. One main source of information was NYSERDA and the NYSERDA manual, ( Specifically pages 9, 10, 11, 12 , 13, 19 and 20) and various searches on local and national electrical/building codes. My research showed that the sub-meter is a small appliance much in the class as a thermostat and can be installed almost anywhere. So, with that information in hand, I contacted management several times to ask if, my sub-meter could be installed on the other side of the wall (same location below the breaker/fuse box) in my pantry closet. After several attempts to management and Katy the co-op president, the only response I got from Gail was that it had to be installed near the electrical box. So in August 2009, on the scheduled day of installation, the electricians with building personnel show up, I let them in and inquired if they thought it would be okay to put the meter in the pantry. I showed them the NYSERDA guidelines and they said they saw no problems and they proceed to install the meter in my pantry. The installation took no extra time or effort. They finished and signed off on the work.
Life was good until later that week my neighbor called me and they were away on vacation. They were given very little notice of their sub meter installation appointment. She called in a panic at 8am and asked if I could rush over and supervise the work and watch the apartment. I rush over with her keys in hand given to me by a neighbor unable to assist, to find her apartment was illegally entered by the workmen as they did not have permission from the tenant to enter her home. I did as she asked and watched the work as it was in progress. My neighbor called me by phone and asked if they could have their meter put in their pantry too. (Mind you, other neighbors had also asked the management for a closet install before the sub meter program began) For my neighbor, the pantry installation was refused as the work had been started. Upon completion of the work the breaker box was not put in correctly and I complained to the workmen that it had to be fixed. They had left a gap between the live fuse box and the wall big enough to put your fingers in. During this time the workmen also made harassing comments and threatening gestures to me, because I insisted that Gail come and inspect the work before they leave. That was done, and they left (without turning the electricity back on and spoiling all the food the refrigerator). Also management’s solution was not to fix the crooked fuse box or have the electricians who were on the floor below to come back and fix the problem but, just to place more caulk around the sides and attempt to hide the sloppy work. It was at that point, that our annoyed building manager who was forced to leave her office was told where my meter was installed.
Two weeks later I get a call from Gail telling me the meter had to be moved out of the closet. I asked her what the problem was with where it is located and she said “It’s not fair that you got what you wanted and nobody else did! “ This mantra is management’s rationale with approval of the board to decide to sue me. In legal slang this is called a “spite suit”. Gail then added “C’mon Bob you look like a nice guy and I don’t want to have to “fine” you.” What? There are no fines. This is a Co-op not public housing or a frat house and I don’t appreciate threats. Two, I had been asking since May about the meter’s installation with no real informative answers from her or Katy. Then on Friday after 5:00p.m., I’m told by a letter under the door that the workmen are coming on Tuesday to “fix” the meter. This was completely unreasonable notice. I had a very important meeting scheduled for my new business so I told her that they would have to schedule another appointment. Further I emailed Katy about the whole situation regarding the threats and harassments and once again never got the courtesy of a response. But despite all, the co-op sent the workers while I was away and they did not get in to my apartment.
Sept 2009: I get my first legal notice. They threatened to evict me unless they could come into the apartment and move the sub meter that was legally and safely installed. I also began to get exorbitant legal fees attached (see attached december 2010 maintence bill: legal fees) to my maintenance bill. So I had no choice but to turn the matter over to my lawyer and try to come to some type of resolution So if you heard, that I sued the board, that is true..I was forced to sue to defend my property. Also, keep in mind that NO ONE from the building including Gail or a board member even came to look and see if this was a real problem and, if it could be settled amicably. Instead they chose to spend your money trying to wear me down with a frivolous lawsuit. This is how they chose to solve a problem. This is their management philosophy. Even the board’s attorney admitted that the suit on the boards behalf had gone too far. Then in speaking with my neighbors, who have been so incredibly supportive, I hear that this “wearing down” or “bullying” of the tenants is quite commonplace. I for one will not tolerate a bully in any form. Katy, Gail and the board with this action used and abused the legal system as nothing more than a tool for harrasment and intimidation as thier case was baseless. We have to ask ourselves to what end this exists and if we will stand to be betrayed by the board that we have placed in a position of good faith.
The legal notices continued. I was served for eviction on both Thanksgiving and Christmas a gesture I thought was even beneath the people I was dealing with. They tried to tell us that our pantry was a Class 1 electrical closet; they tried to say the installation was a fire hazard and endangered myself and the tenants; they tried telling me that my installation was against the National Electric code. They lied and lied and lied. Because at the end of the day they knew that they had no case, they knew there was no such code that exists in the placement of the meter where it was installed. The final act (after almost two years of harassment) of desperation came when it was agreed that HPD inspectors should look at the meter. Mind you this is after I had 3 electrical and building engineers look at the meter, including RAND (the former Engineers for WVH..see all the engineers letters 1, 2 and 3 ) and they could find nothing wrong and those findings were forwarded to the board. This is after contacting the man who invented the meter who said it was designed to be put anywhere. When the city HPD inspectors came, they were confused and embarrassed. First, in their whole career they(HPD) had never been called by a landlord to investigate a building they themselves are supposed to manage and maintain. Two, there simply is no code to govern this meter in NY State or New York City. And that is because it is unnecessary. My only bust by HPD was for not having a “working” battery in my smoke detector, and I was missing a carbon monoxide detector (which we may not be required to have since we do not have a gas line but I bought one anyway) and they also found a hole in the wall where the electrical cable meets the water heater (something that is fault of the co-op’s upon the installation of the water heater). These conditions have all been cured. I have attached for all to see the letters I received and the reports of the engineers and other information for you to view and come to your own conclusions..(Click on the highlighted text in this letter to view the documentation) . But, I ask you to keep the following points in mind.
- This suit all happened without any personal intervention or inspection of the meter from the board or management. To this day, no one really knows where my meter is from their own witness.
- These meters transmit other information such as temperature of your home. We were not told that records of the inside temperature of our homes were/are being monitored and recorded.
- These meters are interactive. You should be able to view the activity of your account on the internet through “ Intecs free sub metering program”. (link below for the manual)
- Con-Ed will read our meters for free, why are we paying ELEMCO $30,000.00 a year to read and bill us?
- We paid almost $1000.00 per apartment for meter installation. NYSERDA states that the purchase and installation should run between $400-$600 per unit. That estimate is for either wall/flush mounted or closet mounted installation.
- As far as I’m concerned, the variance (beginning in Oct 2010) to move your sub-meter should be for free and paid by the co-op. If they had done their homework they would not have to poke extras holes in your walls because you originally could have put the meter where you wanted it. After all it’s your property. I got cross estimates for this type of work. It’s a $200.00 job not the $700.00 as the co-op was quoting .
- Lastly, is this “shoot now ask questions later” the type of management style we want? It is a disaster waiting to happen. It is the mark of unintelligent, choosing to be uninformed people who are out of control with the small amount of real authority they have. It invites corruption and erodes the good spirit of the community that we cherish.
Thank you for your consideration in reading this.
P.S. Below are a few more links/documents about my case if you’re interested: