The historic Dakota apartment building in New York faces a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former president of its board.
Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., who has lived in the building since 1992, is suing the building for $15 million after the board denied his application to buy an adjacent unit to accommodate his family.
According to The New York Times, the Dakota has been home to residents such as Lauren Bacall and John Lennon, but has also rejected other luminaries including Billy Joel and Cher.
According to the complaint, Fletcher, a former president of the Dakota’s board of directors entered into an agreement with Ruth Proskauer Smith, whose estate owns the apartment, to buy the apartment in cash with no financing. Smith wanted Fletcher to have the apartment so he can restore the two apartments to their original layout of one unit.
However, the complaint alleges that, after entering into the contract with Smith, Fletcher’s application to the board was rejected. The suit claims that the board “maliciously and wrongfully impugned” Fletcher’s reputation, financial state and the financial state of his company, Fletcher Asset Management.
“Although such conduct by a co-op board on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the beginning of the twenty-first century may seem surprising, this behavior was consistent with the defendants’ extensive pattern of hostility toward non-White residents of the building,” according to the complaint.
One such incident took place in 2005, according to the complaint, when a “prominent, financially well-qualified” White woman attempted to buy an apartment with her Hispanic husband. The board allegedly refused to grant the couple—identified by the New York Times as actors Antonio Banderas and his wife Melanie Griffiths –an interview and instead rejected their application outright.
“Board members made jokes regarding the Hispanic husband’s desire to have a first floor apartment so that he could purchase drugs from people on the street,” the complaint says.
The board released a statement refuting Fletcher’s claims of discrimination, and contending that his claims are inconsistent with how he has been treated by the board as a resident.
“His outrageous accusations of discrimination are untrue and at odds with the facts that the board has previously approved his purchase of several apartments, he has been repeatedly elected to the board, and his mother currently serves on the board,” the board said in the statement.