I’ve been sitting on my couch, ripping pages out of today’s Daily News which, for some reason, is chock-full of lawsuit items. Is it the phase of the moon? Dunno. Here’s one, from Barbara Ross:
No sympathy for bedeviled Bianca
Civil rights activist Bianca Jagger’s drawn-out battle with her landlord over a rent-stabilized Manhattan pad has gone from hopeless to expensive.
The Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court Thursday upheld a court referee’s order that she pay Katz Park Ave. Corp $343,827 to cover legal fees, on top of tens of thousands of dollars in back rent. Jagger insisted her place was rent-stabilized. The Court of Appeals previously sided with the landlord, who argued she had to pay market rate — $4,600 a month — because it was not her primary residence.
The same thing happened many years ago to a close friend of mine, who lived in a rent-controlled one bedroom on the Upper East Side. She worked in the city and it was her primary residence. But she had bought a country house, a weekend house, in New Jersey and one year she either voted or paid her taxes in Jersey. (Jersey at that time and for many years after had no state income tax.)
Back then (and probably now, too), landlords of rent-controlled apartments were fierce about their territory and would review tax records and voting records to pin people like my friend down. They would use spies, in fact, to determine whether a rent-controlled tenant was out of town (and allowing someone else to live in the apartment) for longer than two months each year.
My friend’s landlord issued an eviction notice. Unlike Bianca, she didn’t fight it and now lives permanently in New Jersey.
I can’t understand why Bianca’s lawyers allowed her to pursue an unpursuable case to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s no one quite as tough as a landlord who is getting, say, $823 bucks a month for an apartment the market value of which is $4,600 a month.