On Wednesday we reported on the story of a well-known hedge funder, Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher Jr., who’s suing the board of the famed Upper West Side apartment building, The Dakota.
Fletcher has accused the co-op of racism and discrimination in a pretty damning complaint (which you can read here) after they rejected his application to buy a second apartment in the building.
He’s accused the board of of ethnic slurs against prospective residents, including
- Describing one couple as part of the “Jewish mafia”
- Joking about why a Spanish applicant was interested in a first-floor apartment — they apparently joked it was so he could “more easily buy drugs on the street” (the applicants were Anotonio Banderas and his wife Melanie Griffiths)
- Continually forbidding black singer, Roberta Flack from installing a new bathtub and forcing her to take her dog up to her apartment in a service elevator, which no-one else has to do
Well, we spoke to someone who lives in the building and is familiar with the co-ops board meetings and decisions, who says that Fletcher’s lawsuit completely distorts the situation.
So we’ll go through what we were told, one by one. And then you can decide which side you think seems more legitimate. Obviously it takes two to tango, and we assume that there is guilt and innocence on both sides.
Fletcher says: The board rejected Roberta Flack's requests to 'perform much-needed renovations and repairs to her apartment' and 'fix or replace her bathtub.'
The Dakota resident says: The reason for the rejection of Flack's request was because the co-op forbids anyone from installing a whirlpool bath because of leak concerns, which is what Flack wanted.
Fletcher says: In 2005 Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas applied to become residents and at the board meeting 'no discussion of the matter was permitted. Instead, the Board rejected the application outright.' His main issue, however, was that board members allegedly made jokes 'regarding the Hispanic husband's desire to have a first floor apartment so that he could purchase drugs from people on the street.'
The Dakota resident says: 'I wasn't living there at the time. But that if anything, the joke was made about the white woman, who was the one with the drug problem.' Lol.
Fletcher says: He witnessed discrimination 'by certain Board members' during discussions about a Jewish couple's application. He says despite a stellar financial record, 'the Board quickly rejected the couple, without even an interview, after one Board member had described them as members of the 'Jewish mafia.'
The Dakota resident says: 'It was a Jewish resident that made that comment and it was an unfortunate choice of words. But it was more a reference to the fact that this prominent person was a powerful player in the real estate scene; actually it was a back-handed compliment.' Hmm. (FYI this applicant was later approved for residency).
Fletcher says: In 1993 Fletcher upgraded from his original Dakota apartment to a larger unit. He says the board 'raised numerous obstacles to the purchase, ultimately explicitly conditioning its approval on two harsh conditions,' -- that he immediately sell Apartment 11 and in the interim cease using that unit for any purpose whatsoever, 'including using the apartment himself or allowing any guest or family member to stay there, even for one
He says that other white residents of the Dakota owned multiple units within the Building and that 'prohibitions that the Board arbitrarily imposed on Fletcher... became known within the Building... as 'the Buddy Rule.'
The Dakota resident says: Now, it gets complicated here but basically, according to the Dakota resident we spoke to, the co-op has explicit instructions about owning two apartments within the building.
You can own two if one of them doesn't have a kitchen (there are a ton of rooms on the 8th and 9th floors that are literally just rooms, which were maids rooms back in the day). If you DO buy another one with a kitchen, it must be a contiguous apartment so that you can create one large apartment and get rid of the second kitchen. So it was apparently building procedure that you can't own and live in two apartments if they both have a kitchen.
The Dakota resident said this policy exists so that residents don't buy up a ton of units within the building (which most could probably afford to do) and sell them and rent them out etc -- it's disruptive to other residents and also diminishes the property's value.
Fletcher says: In 2002 he tried to buy a second apartment at the Dakota for his mum - who is actually now a member of the co-op board. He says that to buy his mum the apartment, the board required him to form a special trust to purchase the apartment and conditioned its approval 'on an explicit limiting condition -- that only Dr. Fletcher and no one else would be permitted to reside in Apartment 92, even overnight and even including close relatives'
The Dakota resident says: For the same reasons as the 1993 upgrade, Fletcher should not have been allowed to buy his mother the apartment (which was Leonard Bernstein's old studio, and had a kitchen) and that the board in fact, accommodated him by allowing him to form the trust and then acquire the unit that way.
Fletcher says: The rejection of his application to buy a second apartment: 'arose from longstanding hostility toward Fletcher due to his race, from the defendants' similarly longstanding desire to retaliate against Fletcher for exposing and challenging the defendants' past acts of racially-motivated hostility, and from the defendants' desire to increase the value of their own balance sheets.'
The Dakota resident: would not allow us to print the details of why Fletcher was rejected for financial reasons. Suffice to say, the board believes they have sufficient evidence to show the court why they rejected him and why it pertains to adhering to co-op policies.
Given Mr. Alphonse Fletcher Jr.'s long residency at the Dakota, it was painful for the board to reach the decision to deny his application. We do not think it appropriate to discuss in the press the financial materials submitted by him, but we are confident that the court will find that the board acted appropriately. We are pleased that the Court today denied Mr. Fletcher's application for temporary relief in this matter.
His outrageous accusations of discrimination are untrue and at odds with the facts that the board has previously approved his purchase of several apartments, he has been repeatedly elected to the board, and his mother currently serves on the board. Given that the board twice elected him its president, from 2007 to 2009, it is preposterous to claim that less than a year later it denied his application to purchase an additional apartment based on racial bias. The Dakota has always valued the diversity of our community.