NYC Co-Op Owner Sues After Waiting 16 Years to Move In

The board of Manhattan’s exclusive Dakota co-operative building is being sued by a shareholder who says he’s been unable to move into his apartment for 16 years.

Robert Siegel, chief executive officer of Metropole Realty Advisors Inc., said in his lawsuit that he paid $2.23 million in 1999 for an apartment at the Dakota and has never spent a night there because the board refused to approve his renovation plans and took part of his unit as storage space for the building. He’s seeking $55 million in damages and a court order allowing him to make the renovations.

“These bad-faith acts foreclosed the possibility of Mr. Siegel constructing bedrooms there and thus ensured that the apartment could not be used by Mr. Siegel and his family,” according to the June 29 complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court.

Before buying the street-level duplex at the building on 72nd Street and Central Park West -- once home to celebrities such as John Lennon and Lauren Bacall -- Siegel got permission from the co-op board to convert the lower level into four bedrooms with air conditioning for his children, according to the lawsuit. Once the sale was complete, the board said it would only approve Siegel’s plans if he agreed to buy additional shares of Dakota co-operative stock for $1.8 million, which would about double his monthly maintenance charges, according to the complaint.

After Siegel refused to make the additional payments, the board voted to reclassify half of Siegel’s apartment as “non-habitable storage space,” according to the lawsuit. The board also barred him from adding air conditioning or ventilation to the lower level, thereby making it unsuitable for bedrooms, according to the complaint.

Siegel’s lawyer, Steven Sladkus, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Eric Balber, an attorney with Balber Pickard Maldonado & Van Der Tuin, which represents the co-op board, didn’t return a call to his law office. The lawsuit was reported earlier today by the New York Post.

Record Prices

Co-op residents buy shares in a corporation that owns the building, rather than getting a deed to the apartment itself, as they would in a condominium. Shareholders make monthly maintenance payments that collectively cover building costs such as mortgage payments and operating expenses.

Manhattan apartment prices have reached records amid strong buyer demand and strength in the luxury market. The average price of all co-ops and condominiums that sold in the second quarter was $1.87 million, the highest in 26 years of data-keeping, according to a report last week by Miller Samuel Inc. and Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The average price of a co-op also set a record at $1.54 million.

Apartments listed for sale at the Dakota, directly across an entrance to Central Park, average $10.48 million, according to property website StreetEasy.com. Units on the market there range from $3.6 million, for a two-bedroom apartment, to $23.5 million, for the nine-room unit that belonged to Bacall.

The case is Siegel v. the Dakota Inc., 154934/2015, New York State Supreme Court (New York County).

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