The Cove Club Condominium in Battery Park City has halted eviction proceedings against a 76-year-old deaf resident who has kept a service dog since 2012. The condo board moved to dismiss the eviction action against Roman Erihkman, according to court filings. However, the discrimination lawsuit against the condo board filed by the New York State Division of Human Rights in Manhattan Supreme Court, will proceed, along with Mr. Erihkson’s ongoing battle to recover approximately $100,000 in legal fees he spent defending his right to keep the dog.
Since November 2012, when it filed a lawsuit against Mr. Erihkson, the board has fought to have Mr. Erihkman’s doberman pinscher, Big John Honey, removed from the apartment at 2 South End Avenue, arguing that the animal violated the condo’s “no big dogs” policy and that Mr. Erihkson was not entitled to keep the animal because it was a pet, rather than a service dog.
However, the board, which declined to comment on the case when The Observer called a representative this afternoon, has recently moved to dismiss the eviction action against Mr. Erihkman. However, Mr. Erihkman’s attorney Julie Hyman, who represented her parents in a similar case involving a visiting therapy dog and also declined to comment, is pressing forward to recover the septuagenarian’s legal fees, which were not awarded to either party when the condo’s lawsuit was dismissed. In court documents, the presiding judge cited the fact that there was no “winner”—Big John Honey, who has since died, has been replaced a second doberman pinscher named Scooby—but Ms. Hyman has argued that the lawsuit was frivolous and the Division of Human Rights had already found probable cause to bring a lawsuit when the condo board dropped theirs against Erihkman.
Meanwhile, the Division of Human Rights lawsuit against the condo board will still move forward. Therapy and service pets have become an increasingly common and controversial issue in many New York City buildings, particularly as the government has started to aggressively pursue cases against co-op and condo boards that bar disabled tenants from keeping service or therapy pets. To wit, the federal government is currently suing Lower East Side co-op East River Housing Corp. on behalf of three disabled tenants.
The lawsuits are being filed under Fair Housing Act states, which states that buildings must make “reasonable accommodations” when “such accommodations may be necessary to afford … person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”