By the time I moved my practice from lower Manhattan to Forest Hills (Queens), I had gotten pretty good at Landlord-Tenant cases. In L&T cases the stakes are often high and the pressure is real. This can be compounded by difficult clients who aren’t always forthcoming with the full story. I was hired by Herb Neuberg (name fictitious, story all true) to prevent he and his mother from being evicted from their rental apartments in Parker Towers. They lived in two separate apartments. Parker Towers consists of three 24 story buildings, all rentals. It’s a pretty impressive set-up, with the administrative offices in a small office building on site.
When Herb retained me, eviction warrants had already issued on both apartments. He had been representing himself and gotten some serious delays, but the moment of truth was closing in. He had all kinds of explanations regarding “business reversals” and projects where he was “about to get funding”. The Courts gave him a bit of time and then issued the warrants. I did what I could to buy some more time, which was filing Orders to Show Cause and getting a hearing claiming some defenses and stating he was going to pay. I had made clear paying or getting evicted was going to be the ultimate result, but clients sometimes want to pay for some more time and then hope for a miracle.
After the hearing, the Judge ruled against us and an eviction was set for about 4 days ahead. Herb wanted me to file an emergency appeal at the Appellate Court, and while I said I wouldn’t agree to do the appeal without payment in advance (which he clearly didn’t have), he wanted to do the papers himself and asked me to drive him to the Appellate Court office so he could get the forms (this is in about 1984, so no getting forms online!). I agreed to drive him and talk about what he should say.
On the way he said to me “This isn’t going to work, is it?” I said “I really don’t think so.”
“Do you have any ideas?”
“I can only think of one thing”….
I turned the car around and headed for Parker Towers. I parked outside the office building and told Herb to wait in the car. He didn’t ask me what I was going to do.
I took the elevator up to the administrative offices. I knew that the head honcho for Parker Towers was Richard Parmin. I asked the receptionist if I could meet with him. She asked if I had an appointment and I said no. She said I could not see him today.
I hadn’t planned to do it, but I walked past her and into his office. She was right behind me yelling “Hey, you can’t go in there.”
Mr. Parmin said “Who are you and why are you here?”
I said “My name is Barry Seidel. I’m an attorney representing the Neubergs, tenants in two of your apartments, who are about to be evicted.”
“I know about it. So, Howard finally actually hired an attorney? I’ll tell you what, say what you have to say in a minute or less and then you have to leave or I’ll call security.”
I said “That’s fair. What I am concerned mostly about is that Howard’s mother, Ida Neuberg, lives in Apartment 12-F and I don’t even know if she knows she’s about to be evicted. I won’t stand here and tell you Howard shouldn’t be evicted, but I think Mrs. Neuberg is about 80 years old and I wanted to make sure you knew that.”
He looked at me for a few seconds and then said to his receptionist “Bring me the Neuberg files.”
While she got the files Mr. Parmin said to me “You know, when I was a young lawyer I used to represent the dregs of society too. Howard is a bad person and I don’t care if he gets evicted. But I would consider giving you and Howard a chance to save his mother’s apartment, IF what you are saying checks out. If it does, I’ll hold off evicting her for 60 days, conditioned upon Howard surrendering possession of his apartment and bringing his mother’s apartment rent current within 60 days. I’ll have my lawyers draw it up if you agree.”
Howard didn’t like it but he didn’t argue much. We signed the paperwork and I was not involved in what happened between them after that. To be honest, I never actually knew whether Howard’s mother was even alive.
My only further activity was sending Howard a bill for what I had just done. He requested it that way, so I sent him a bill that summarized what had happened and asked for a fee of $750.
And he stiffed me!!! I eventually sued him in Small Claims Court and got a judgment, which I never collected.
There are all kinds of “dregs of society”.
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