Co-op’s Alleged Persecution Of Pet-Owning Neighbors Draws DOJ’s Wrath

Co-op’s Alleged Persecution Of Pet-Owning Neighbors Draws DOJ’s Wrath
Source: Google Maps
Trump Village (Source: Google Maps)

It’s the latest legal kerfuffle involving a certain Trump Village co-op board and its embattled former president, Igor Oberman.

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it has filed a lawsuit against the co-op at Trump Village Section 4, as well as Oberman, who has been at the center of several legal dustups and investigations, for violating the Fair Housing Act by failing to accommodate residents who require emotional support animals.

The DoJ alleges that members of the co-op refused to allow four residents to live with a emotional support animals, which are supposed to aid people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Shareholders in the co-op even attempted to evict three of their neighbors when they refused to give up their furry companions, according to the complaint.

The DoJ also says the harassment continued after the co-op entered into a legal agreement allowing residents to live with emotional support animals. That case, settled in January with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, charged the co-op with trying to evict a veteran who served in Afghanistan and suffered PTSD as well as his wife in retaliation for filing a fair housing complaint. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to refuse reasonable to accommodations to people with disabilities.

“The law is clear that reasonable accommodations must be granted to individuals with disabilities when those accommodations are necessary to afford them the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their homes,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in a press release. This includes the right to live with an emotional support animal.”

In an emailed statement, Oberman said the co-op board had cooperated fully with the terms of HUD’s complaint and accused investigators of targeting their building because of its association with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“The only reason why the federal government is wasting tax payer dollars is to get headlines is due to Donald Trump running for public office,” Oberman wrote in his email.

“I feel due to the Trump name, we are being persecuted,” he argued.

The shareholders at the Trump Village co-op already have a lengthy paper trail of legal foibles and have been sparing in court for years over controversies related to the building. At the center of the wrangling is Oberman, who resigned in June from his position as president of the co-op’s board of directors. Oberman filed a defamation lawsuit last year against several other co-op members for comments they wrote on a blog, TV4News.org.

Shareholders created the website as a forum to gripe about Oberman’s “KGB tactics” as head of the co-op board, according to the New York Times.

Igor Oberman (photo via Facebook)
Igor Oberman (photo via Facebook)

Oberman’s lawsuit claims several of the site’s posts include false information and caused financial harm by getting in the way of potential sales.

Oberman has also been the target of an age discrimination lawsuit brought by former employees of the building and been accused of firing a longtime worker for trying to organize a union. Oberman claimed the pro-union employee was fired for stealing abandoned flooring. The two female employees lost their jobs after failing to deposit a $47,000 check.

Oberman’s 2013 bid to replace City Councilman Michael Nelson has also come under legal scrutiny. He was fired from his post as an attorney for the Taxi and Limousine Commission after investigators determined he had been doing political campaign work from his government office, Crain’s New York reports. Investigators also raised questions about Oberman’s decision sign off on $45,000 lobbying contract on behalf of the co-op. The contract reportedly went to Advance Group, a Manhattan consulting firm that Oberman hired to work for his campaign.

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