Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did Supreme Court Justice-Designate Sotomayor's Law Firm Partner Violate NYC Rent Stabilization Law?

After working 5 years as an Assistant D.A. in Manhattan, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Designate Sonia Sotomayor worked at the Pavia & Harcourt corporate law firm between 1984 and 1991, eventually becoming a law firm partner of a Manhattan landlord named George Pavia--who owned an apartment building at 18 East 73rd Street.

Ironically, during the period when former New York City criminal prosecutor Sotomayor worked at Pavia & Harcourt (and sat on the State of New York Mortgage Agency's board of directors) her law firm partner apparently was violating New York City's Rent Stabilization Law. As a December 10, 2006 article in the New York Times noted:

"Mr. Pavia bought his building in 1977 for $365,000, renovating its first three floors as his family’s residence and allotting the four apartments above as rental units….

"In the fall of 1996, Mr. Couri [Pavia’s Tenant] signed a standard two-year lease with a monthly rent of $1,780….

"…Mr. Couri once retained, Ronald L. Kuby… Mr. Kuby said he considered Mr. Pavia a bad landlord who bullied his tenants. ..

“Mr. Couri did some digging of his own in 1999 and, after inquiring with neighbors, discovered that 18 East 73rd Street was subject to rent-stabilization laws; he says he was incensed that Mr. Pavia had not notified his tenants of this fact.

"New York City established rent control in 1943 to help curb rapidly inflating rents during World War II. Today, some one million New York apartments are subject to rent-control or rent-stabilization laws...Supporters argue that the practice keeps centrally located housing available and affordable for those with lower incomes.

"After New York state housing authorities notified Mr. Pavia in 2002 that his building was subject to rent stabilization, he spent several months disputing the judgment…

“Meanwhile, Mr. Pavia began eviction proceedings against Mr. Couri in 2002, heightening a series of legal battles.

"As tensions between Mr. Pavia and Mr. Couri reached a boiling point, Apartment 3B endured its own stresses. Mrs. Couri says she was painting on her terrace in 2004 when heavy chunks of ice that had settled on its transparent rooftop caused the structure to collapse in an avalanche of glass. ..

"Mr. Couri filed a complaint with New York City officials, who fined Mr. Pavia $2,500 for construction violations and filing false permits and ordered him to rebuild a section of his brownstone according to code. And as the terrace was no longer deemed to be `living space, Mr. Pavia was forced to lower Mr. Couri’s rent to $1,490 a month and pay him a refund of $4,000…

"So far the law has not been on Mr. Pavia’s side. In nearly three years of eviction attempts, the court has repeatedly said that Mr. Pavia has been unable to prove that Mr. Couri is a `nuisance' or has engaged in `criminal harassment.’”

But maybe Manhattan Landlord-Lawyer Pavia’s luck in court will begin to change if a former partner in his corporate law firm is now allowed to take a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court bench?

For more info about U.S. Supreme Court Justice-Designate Sotomayor's former law firm partner at Pavia & Harcourt, you can check out the following link: