The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stein, District Judge.
Plaintiff South Park Associates, L.L.C. has brought this action seeking
a declaratory judgment that its tenant, defendant Josephine Renzulli, may
be evicted from the apartments where she lives. The parties have each
moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the
landlord's motion is denied and the tenant's motion is granted because
plaintiff has not properly terminated the tenancy as required by New York
law. That portion of defendant's motion that alleges that subject matter
jurisdiction does not exist is denied.
South Park is a Florida limited liability company whose principal place
of business is in Florida and none of whose members is a citizen of New
York. South Park owns the shares and proprietary lease for the
cooperative apartments 11/12B & 12C at 230 Central Park South in New York
City. Renzulli, currently 84 years old, has been residing in those
apartments for more than 30 years and currently rents them from South
Park. The apartments are subject to the New York City Rent Stabilization
Law of 1969. Plaintiffs lawsuit seeks, among other matters, declaratory
judgment that it may evict Renzulli and that the apartments are rent
destabilized. In other words, the landlord believes the apartments are
eligible to be rented at a "reasonable market rent," rather than the
below market rent Renzulli currently pays pursuant to the Rent
In 1983, the building was converted to cooperative ownership under a
non-eviction plan. Renzulli chose to remain as a rent stabilized tenant
after the conversion of the apartments. This litigation is the latest in
a series of lawsuits by her landlords against Renzulli seeking her
eviction. Each suit prior to this one was dismissed by the courts.
Renewal leases — each of which set the commencement date and the
rent due date at the first of the month — were periodically sent to
Renzulli, who signed and returned each of them. The last such lease
expired in 1995. At that time, the landlord brought an eviction action
instead of offering renewal leases. For several years — until the
landlord's latest loss in court in 1999 — Renzulli was not offered
In May of 1999, the landlord sent Renzulli renewal leases; those leases
changed the rent due dates and commencement dates to the 15th of the
month. When Renzulli signed and returned them, she made two alterations
to their terms. First, she changed the commencement and rent due dates to
the beginning of the month — the same terms used in the earlier
leases. Second, she eliminated three of the four charges related to
air-conditioner use, claiming that she was being charged for four
air-conditioners even though she had only one. The previous lease had
contained the same four air-conditioner charges, but Renzulli claims that
she did not know the charges covered four air conditioners. See Hazenberg
Aff., Ex. E; Renzulli Aff., at ¶ 8.
As noted above, the parties have now each moved for summary judgment.
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over civil matters
where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and there is complete
diversity of citizenship between the parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332
There is no dispute that complete diversity of citizenship exists in
the present case. However, the tenant alleges that the $75,000 amount in
controversy requirement has not been met, and the landlord responds that
the apartment has a fair market value in excess of $1,000,000. See
Rosefielde Aff. at ¶ 3.
Where a defendant disputes the existence of diversity jurisdiction
based upon the amount in controversy, "it must appear to a legal
certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional
amount to justify dismissal." Tongkook America, Inc. v. Shipton
Sportswear Co., 14 F.3d 781, 784 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing St. Paul Mercury
Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289, 58 S.Ct. 586, 82 L.Ed. 845
(1938)). "The party asserting diversity jurisdiction in federal court has
the burden of establishing the existence of the amount in controversy,"
Lupe v. Human Affairs Int'l, Inc., 28 F.3d 269, 273 (2d Cir. 1994);
however, the burden is only to show a "reasonable probability' that the
claim is in excess of the statutory .jurisdictional amount." Tongkook, 14
F.3d at 784.
Plaintiff alleges that the value of the apartment if vacant or rent
destabilized would exceed $75,000. See Complaint, at ¶ 3. Renzulli
does not deny this allegation, but rather contends that the amount in
controversy requirement is not met because plaintiff is not seeking
damages over $75,000, or alternatively, that plaintiff ...