Q: Two years ago I bought an apartment in a lovely co-op in Gramercy Park. As I soon discovered, I live on what some of my neighbors call “the complainer floor,” where a board member and her persnickety roommate complain about everything. Forget to properly clean a peanut jar before putting it in the recycling bin? Expect a letter from the managing agent. Any box not completely broken down — letter. Dog barks at a delivery man — letter. This duo prowls the trash-compactor rooms on every floor and reports their findings to the management company, directing them to send letters. My neighbors and I are sick of it. What can we do?
A: I can imagine few letters more irritating than one describing the condition of my recycled peanut butter jar. At some point, all those scolding notes become harassment. Fortunately, you’re not alone in this. You’ve got a building full of chastised recyclers who already see this as a source of gossip and bonding. Turn that into something more productive.
“If there are a lot of other neighbors who are sick of it, certainly pressure should be taken to get the board to act,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate lawyer and partner in the Manhattan firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas.
The co-op board has a responsibility to act on your behalf. Yes, the complaining neighbor is a board member, but she still has to abide by the rules of the co-op, which don’t allow shareholders to endlessly harangue other residents.
The president of the board could start by calling the managing agent and instructing the company to stop taking unilateral directives from one board member. The board should also warn the neighbor that the behavior needs to stop or it will pursue an objectionable-conduct proceeding against her. If she keeps up her behavior, the board could seek to terminate her lease. But of course, if the managing agent stops enabling the cantankerous attitude, all of this can stop.
If the board ignores your complaints, your fight isn’t over. You and your neighbors could collectively sue the board or, as a start, send a strongly worded letter from a lawyer (lawyers have a way of getting people’s attention). Another avenue: Run for a seat on the board in the next election. If you win, you’ll be in a position to address these problems directly, and eventually take your recycling out in peace.