What to Do if the Super Gropes You?
Q. A month after I bought a co-op in Kensington, Brooklyn, I had an unnerving encounter with the super. I was retrieving a package and he grabbed me in a bearhug and growled. Days later, when he was in my apartment making repairs, he pulled me into another embrace, kissing me above my bosom. When I told the board president, she described him as “a good family man” and refused to intervene. I wrote the board and the managing agent a letter. They responded, saying that I should not speak with him “until investigations are complete.” That was a year ago. Now, I cannot ask the super for services, while other shareholders can. For example, the building has a plumbing issue. While the super has repaired other units, I was told to hire a licensed plumber at my own expense. What do I do?
A. The behavior you described may be considered housing discrimination under New York City’s Human Rights Law because the super and the co-op board are creating a hostile living environment, according to the city Commission on Human Rights.
Your co-op board has a duty to discipline its employees, to treat its shareholders equally and to comply with the lease and the law. From what you describe, the board is certainly neglecting its duties.
It is also discriminating against you, denying you your rights as a shareholder and likely violating the lease, as well as the warranty of habitability, a state law, according to Ian J. Brandt, a partner in the law firm Wagner Berkow.
“These are pretty plain human rights violations,” he said.
So what should you do? Bill the board for any repair costs incurred, as these expenses should be shouldered by the co-op, not you. Install cameras in your apartment to capture evidence that you can give to the police should the super accost you again. Hire a lawyer to write a letter to the co-op board, the co-op’s lawyer and the managing agent insisting that it appropriately discipline the super and restore your full rights as a shareholder. “God forbid anything happens, they’re on notice,” said Steven R. Wagner, a real estate lawyer who is also a partner in Wagner Berkow and was part of the conversation.