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Feldheim v. Stuckey

Civil Court of the City of New York, Bronx County

December 5, 2017

Dov Feldheim, Petitioner-Landlord,
v.
Tarife Stuckey, Miguel Caraballo, Ruth Sharp, Edward Alexander, Angela Toure, James Shepard, Respondents-Tenants.

          GREEN & COHEN, P.C. Attorneys for Petitioner By: Anisha Tanna, Esq.

          BOOM! HEALTH LEGAL SERVICES Attorneys for Respondents By: Emilio Paesano, Esq.

          HON. MIRIAM BREIER JUDGE.

         On October 31, 2016, the five captioned summary holdover proceedings were consolidated under Index No. L & T 33615/16. At that time, the petitioner was Denise Keyes, who later sold the subject building, 1760 Topping Avenue, Bronx, New York to petitioner, Dov Feldheim. Dov Feldheim who bought the building on March 6, 2017, was substituted as petitioner in these consolidated proceedings by stipulation dated June 1, 2017.

         The fact that there were five separate proceedings pending to recover possession of five units on the first floor of this three unit multiple dwelling, should have been a red flag that the units and the building could potentially be subject to rent stabilization. Petitioner sought to recover possession of the five rooms in the first floor unit through service of individual thirty day termination notices and petitions alleging that the rooms were not subject to rent stabilization. The defenses of de facto rent stabilization status and failure to serve termination notices under the Rent Stabilization Law were raised by the respondents in their answer dated April 13, 2017 served after the denial of their motion to dismiss the petitions on these grounds. (Spears, JHC, March 27, 2017).

         The consolidated holdover proceedings were tried before the court on August 24, 2017. Respondent, Tarife Stuckey, who was incarcerated, appeared by video conference. All other named respondents with the exception of Angela Toure were present for the trial. Petitioner and respondents were represented by counsel. The court reserved decision and requested post-trial memoranda, which were submitted by counsel.

         TRIAL

         Petitioner presented its prima facie case through Dov Feldheim, the owner of the premises. A certified deed dated March 6, 2017 describing the premises as a "three family dwelling" and the multiple dwelling registration for the three story three unit building were entered into evidence.

         Petitioner testified that he was informed by the prior owner of the premises, Denise Keyes, of the pendency of the consolidated proceedings. He testified that he had not received any rent/use and occupancy from the named respondents and that they do not have leases. Mr. Feldheim testified that a tenant on the third floor of the building pays him $2, 058.00 in rent every month. Petitioner rested.

         Respondents' first witness, Adelle Sharp, testified that her mother, Ruth Sharp, has lived in room No.5 in the first floor apartment since February 14, 2014. Adelle Sharp testified that she visits her mother "all the time" and was there the day before the trial. Ms. Sharp testified that upon entering the apartment there are three bedrooms and a bathroom to the right, two closets, and two additional bedrooms including her mother's #5 with a communal kitchen in the rear. Her mother has a key to her room and does not have access to any other rooms except the shared bathroom and kitchen.

         Respondents' second witness, James Shepard, testified that he moved into room #1 of the first floor apartment on July 21, 2012 along with his fiancé, Angela Toure, and they still reside there. He responded to an ad for the apartment that was placed in the Amsterdam News, and spoke with Denise Keyes. Mr. Shepard testified that he paid $750.00 cash to Ms. Keyes; $250.00 each for his deposit, security and first week's rent. He was given a key to the apartment and the door of his room, but no receipt was given. The agreement between him and Ms. Keyes was for rent in the amount of $250.00 to be paid in cash weekly on Fridays as Ms. Keyes did not want a paper trail. Utilities were included in the rent. Mr. Shepard lives in the room with Ms. Toure and they share the common kitchen and bathroom.

         Respondents' third witness, Tarife Stuckey, testified that he moved into room #2 in the first floor apartment on March 6, 2014. He had heard about the apartment from Mr. Shepard. Mr. Stuckey paid Ms. Keyes $320.00 by money order to secure the apartment, but subsequent payments were in cash as Ms. Keyes insisted. Initially he had an agreement with Ms. Keyes to pay $320.00 biweekly, but she raised the rent to $340.00 because the included utilities had risen.

         Mr. Stuckey testified that he lives in room #2 by himself. There is a lock on the door to which he has a key. The room was furnished with a bed and dresser. There is no bathroom and kitchen in his room, and he shares the kitchen and bathroom with the five other people with whom he lives in the apartment.

         Respondents' fourth witness, Edward Alexander, testified that he lives in room #3 in the first floor apartment. Prior to moving in in March 2013, Mr. Alexander was living in a homeless shelter. A housing agent at the shelter ...


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