Volume 77 / Number 45 - April 9 - 15, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Gottlieb tenants keep complaining as Duane steps in

By Albert Amateau

Residential tenants of the estate of the late Bill Gottlieb, who have long endured no repairs and little services, received an offer last week from the office of State Senator Tom Duane to intercede with their landlord.

About 20 anxious Gottlieb property residents met on Thurs., April 3, with tenant advocates and Romeo Ymaley, a Duane aide, to reaffirm complaints they made at a February meeting about conditions in the buildings now operated by Gottlieb’s nephew and heir, Neil Bender.

Ymaley told tenants that he and Duane met recently with Bender and his attorneys in a “quick but fruitful exchange.” Ymaley urged tenants to submit lists of their specific housing complaints to him at Duane’s office and said he would deliver them to the landlord and his lawyers in the Simon & Eisenberg law firm.

“If there is an emergency we’ll have an inspector there right away,” said Ymaley at the meeting at the Judson Church House on Thompson St., which attracted far fewer Gottlieb tenants than the February meeting, attended by more than 100 residents.

One resident of a W. 12th St. building said last week she believed many tenants in her building didn’t attend because of landlord intimidation. She said that soon after she filed a complaint, her rent check was returned. A Gottlieb tenant for eight years, she said that had never happened before.

Another resident of a Gottlieb building on the Lower East Side said last week that despite an agreement made more than a month ago in Housing Court, the landlord has not complied with a promise to repair a leaking ceiling.

A spokesperson for William Gottlieb Management Co. replied to those allegations with a statement similar to one issued in response to complaints made in February.

“We are actively maintaining or improving all of our properties and we respond to requests for services and other issues in a timely manner,” the spokesperson said.

Bill Gottlieb acquired more than 100 properties in the Village, Lower East Side and elsewhere before he died in 1999. He was known for spending little or nothing on his ramshackle-but-historic old buildings and charging minimal rent for many properties.

At his death, a family feud over the estate was temporarily settled when Gottlieb’s sister, Mollie Bender, who had been working with Gottlieb for several years, found a 1972 will in which Bill named her his heir.

Mollie and her son, Neil Bender, ran the estate until Mollie died last July 1. Before she died at the age of 85, she signed documents for Neil to be appointed administrator of the Gottlieb estate.

But Cheryl Dier, Mollie’s daughter, who was left out of Bill Gottlieb’s and Mollie’s wills and not mentioned in Mollie’s legal request for Neil to be appointed administrator of the Gottlieb estate, went to Surrogate’s Court to contest the wills. And Dier’s son, Michael Corbett, filed a Surrogate’s Court suit to block the appointment of Neil Bender as Gottlieb estate administrator.

However, both those Surrogate issues were dismissed on Feb. 19. Nevertheless, Carl Mayer, attorney for Corbett and his mother, filed notices of appeal, which gives him four months to complete the appeal documents.

A spokesperson for Simon & Eisenberg, who are representing Neil Bender in the Surrogate cases, said, “Even in the event that either [Dier or Corbett] files an appeal, we are fully confident that we will prevail.”

The Gottlieb properties are worth an estimated $700 million to $1 billion, but filings in Surrogate’s Court put the value at $135 million, according to an April 6 article in The New York Times real estate magazine.

Village preservation advocates have ambivalent opinions about Gottlieb and his way of doing business. On the one hand, his penchant for buying and holding onto old low-rise buildings helped stem the tide of tall glass towers in the West Village. But his policy of spending as little as possible to maintain his buildings risked their eventual loss.




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