Real Estates

Luke NIC co-op sues absent tenant over alleged hoarding

Clean up already!

That’s the directive given by a tony Upper East Side co-op — where a one-bedroom unit sells for nearly $1 million — to its elderly owner.

Board at 31 E Street. 72nd St. is suing 86-year-old Joan Dees to make her clean her apartment. A state Supreme Court lawsuit filed against her late last month alleges hoarding, a rodent infestation and water leaks that damaged the ceiling.

The apartment is “probably really messy,” Dise told the Post, “but I’m not a hoarder.

Disse has owned the one-bedroom since 1965, but has not lived in it “for some time,” according to court documents. The documents also include a “friendly handwritten note from the board president,” who is also her upstairs neighbor, “asking if the defendant needs help fixing the situations at issue in this lawsuit.”

The unit mentioned in the lawsuit is at 31 E.  72. St.
The unit mentioned in the lawsuit is at 31 E. 72. St.
Matthew McDermott

The note said the ceiling had “extensive damage due to leaks” and the unit was “in a very unsanitary and unsanitary condition. Sooner or later, there will most likely be an intervention by the fire service, which has been increasingly intensive in its coercive measures in recent years.

The board president, Guy “Clay” Maitland, declined to comment, and the co-op’s attorney, Deborah Koplowitz, did not return messages.

Disse went unanswered last summer, the lawsuit says. It claims that Disse, who “apparently left the flat empty for many years, should have kept the interior in good condition” but instead “kept it as a quasi-storage facility”.

The co-op’s attorney’s letter to Dise says that the super, “who you previously asked to enter the apartment to check its condition,” reports that the “ceiling has fallen” and that there is an “over-accumulation of personal belongings in the apartment.”

A note included in the court documents says the ceiling has "major leakage damage."
A note included in the court documents said the ceiling had “extensive damage from leaks.”
Court evidence

The board wants to send its own crew to clean up if Disse won’t — and is also seeking access for quarterly inspections.

Dise, reached by phone in St. Louis, said she doesn’t remember getting a note from the neighbor. She said the clutter mostly comes from empty cardboard boxes, mail and catalogs piled inside by building staff. “Imagine all the catalogs you get in a week,” she said.

Although the lawsuit alleges a rodent infestation, it provides no evidence. Dise said she has never seen a rodent in her apartment, although she has seen them in the past while waiting for the subway.

Photographs taken by Maitland and submitted to the court show that the ceiling is peeling. Dise insists that any leak causing the paint to peel comes from plumbing work upstairs. “I can’t fix it and I didn’t do it,” she said.

Another picture of the inside of the unit, which Dise said "probably really messy, but I'm not a hoarder."
Another image of the inside of the unit, which Dise said is “probably really messy, but I’m not a hoarder.”
Court evidence

Department of Buildings records show permits for extensive work on the floor above, the penthouse floor. One permit, filed seven years ago and valid for more than four years, allowed for major renovations, including the removal of interior partitions and new roof framing, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and lighting.

The second permit, also filed seven years ago and valid for two years, was granted to a master plumber.

In the 15-story building, where most floors contain three units, a one-bedroom is selling for $980,000, with monthly maintenance of about $900.

Another picture of the apartment included in the lawsuit.
Another picture of the apartment included in the lawsuit.
Court evidence

Apartments in the largest line are significantly larger, with two bedrooms plus an office, dining room, staff room and gallery, according to the floor plan. They sell for more than $5 million.

The building’s ground floor retail includes a high-end jewelry boutique and shoe store fronting Madison Avenue, as well as two art galleries.

Super or building staff, even if they have keys, can’t go in and clean without the owner’s permission unless there’s an emergency, said Adam Leitman Bailey, a real estate attorney not connected to the case.

Dise said she continued to make child support payments and assessments, but did not live full-time in New York for at least a dozen years, as she returned to her native St. Louis to care for her elderly stepfather and mother, who are now deceased. Her mother died in 2010 at the age of 97.

After that she said, “I would go to New York for a day or two and that would be it. A day in New York would really make you happy if you live in the Midwest.”

Recently, the COVID shutdown prevented her from returning to cleaning, she said. Then she got myocarditis from the vaccine. “My legs were bright red and I could hardly breathe,” she said. “It sure made a mess of my life.”

31 E.  72. St.
31 E. 72. St.
Matthew McDermott

Disse had an exciting, glamorous past traveling the world as a flight attendant for Pan Am and later for Delta.

In 1967, the Pan Am Clipper newspaper mentioned her as one of the crew members greeted and blessed by Pope Paul VI as a Boeing 707 flew him between Rome and Turkey. The Pope also praised the “delicious” food on board.

“It was the most wonderful job in the world, and I collected antiques and art,” Dise said. “I fell into it by accident and it was one of the best things that ever happened.”

Disse said she is doing her best to solve the problem of the untidy apartment.

“My lawyer talked to their lawyer and said, ‘Joan, I think we can work this out.’ My apartment is not big, but it is mine and I love it. I hope to be around for a few more years to enjoy it. The last few years of my life have not been pleasant.”

When she last arrived, Dise said she was planning to fly to New York soon. “I’m going to get out my scrubbing gear and clean the place,” she said.

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