East River Co-op Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Dog Policy

rosie/east river

Rosie, Stephaie Aaron’s dog. Photo via New York Observer.

A topic that’s been stirring controversy in the Grand Street cooperatives for a number of years is getting some citywide attention today.  The Observer filed a lengthy report on a lawsuit filed by the federal government against the East River Co-op for allegedly discriminating against dog owners.

The story focuses on local resident Stephanie Aaron, the owner of Rosie, the pit bull you see pictured here.  After finding the stray a couple of years ago, she quickly became attached to the dog, and noticed that her mental health improved significantly.  More from the story:

“Within a few days, I realized I was able to do things that I hadn’t been able to do before. I became more social—because of her, I actually know the neighbors in the building better,” said Ms. Aaron, who suffers from chronic major depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. “If I stand outside the building for five minutes, people stop to see her, pet her, ask me about her.”  The problem is that Ms. Aaron’s building is part of East River Housing Corp., a sprawling co-op complex at 573 Grand Street on the Lower East Side that does not allow dogs or other animals without “prior written consent,” which Ms. Aaron didn’t request when she decided to keep Rosie. “I didn’t ever bother to try, because everyone else has a dog,” Ms. Aaron admitted. “There are probably 10 dogs in my elevator bank.”  A month later, the co-op demanded that Ms. Aaron remove Rosie. Loathe to do so, Ms. Aaron learned that her mental health problems might allow her to keep an emotional support animal under the Fair Housing Act. She obtained a letter from her psychiatrist, and when the co-op board refused to accommodate her, she filed a complaint with HUD, which led this December to the U.S. attorney’s office suing the co-op. (Rather than appear before an administrative HUD judge, the co-op board has elected to have the case tried in federal court.)

Two other East River residents, Steven Gilbert and Amy Eisenberg, found themselves in similar situations. They are now part of the lawsuit, as well.  Lawyers believe the case could set nationwide precedent.  You can read the whole article here.

  • Andrea

    This article is very interesting. I am surprised that Ms. Aaron
    was able to keep Rosie claiming she suffers from mental stress. I know
    for a Fact that her dog bit several dogs

    around the neighborhood including another resident’s small dog and
    bloody her face. They asked her to remove the dog because it is
    potentially dangerous, Not because she wants a therapy dog. And how much
    is this costing us shareholders? Incredibly selfish of her. She
    exercised poor judgment by bringing a stray dog
    like Rosie (a Pit Bull!) into the buildings. I know she had to pay for
    vet bills
    regarding Rosie attack on the small dog. I can’t imagine how that
    alleviates her anxiety ! If anything, it creates more stress. The dog is
    sweet with some dogs but absolutely Can Not be trusted with other dogs.

  • LowerEastSideShopOwner

    Andrea, your response is ignorant. I would hate to completely write you off as an ignorant person without knowing you, if you catch my drift. Have you, with your own two eyes, witnessed this dog attack another dog? I met Rosie with my 10 week old puppy. She was nothing but submissive and docile. A dog’s temperament is DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE HUMAN THAT OWNS AND RAISES IT. Exactly like children. Based on your gossipy response, I can assume that your children are judgmental, ignorant, and believe in stereotypes. They probably act hysterically and anxiously in the presence of dogs which will absolutely trigger a reaction from an animal. You clearly are not an educated dog owner and your entire entry is based on hearsay.

  • Andrea

    Dear Lower East Side Shop Owner,

    I have no problem revealing my name, how about you? Be brave.
    Obviously you are either Stefanie or her friend.
    You could not have met Rosie at 10 weeks, why would you even say that when Stefanie says she found Rosie in the dog run at Corlear’s Park??. Rosie was almost an adult when she was found. All of us East River dogs owners know that.
    In fact, the lawyer from this case has called me, he may want me to testify.
    And pretty strong words coming form a person who has never “met” me.
    Is this your way of insulting me? You can call me 917 345 3379.
    Of course I have witnessed Rosie attacking another dog, I would not have stated it if I did not have tangible proof. So does the management company.
    BTW, I owned dogs all my life and have trained them.
    Give me a call if you are serious or want to meet and I can show you the evidence I have. We can talk like adults. :)

  • MarkBLES

    You’re talking about owning and raising a dog but this woman didn’t raise this dog, she picked him/her up off the street, so what is your point there? Buildings having dog policies is not uncommon in the least bit throughout the city however these people specifically chose to take up residence in a place that disallows it and then complain that the coop is enforcing a rule which you had to have willfully acknowledged during whatever process you went through to live here. Any real estate listing specifically states the no dog policy on top of whatever notifications the coop may also give during the process.
    Of course this is a sticky situation for any development to deal with, any scrutiny towards whatever debilitating condition these people claim makes them look callous and inconsiderate. Anytime an issue with a dog is reported suddenly the owner stricken with disabling anxiety, and “needs” the animal. This is New York city who doesn’t have anxiety living in the fast paced environment the city dictates. I lived here all my life, watched the towers fall as a young child. Could I highlight anxiety, depression, ptsd etc and get myself a dog, while blindly ignoring the fact that I chose to live in a development with a no-dog policy, concurrently villanizing the coop. I’m sure I could, and it would make an interesting, “insightful” news article for some hipster/yuppy blog/newspaper to exercise their carefree ideals in while ignoring there are rules which building developments adhere to that not everybody may like. But I understand that signing legal documents to live here, which acknowledge the rules, isn’t just a bullshit piece of paper, its there for a reason. The building does allow cats, and other small animals, have they tried those for their therapeutic purposes, or did they initially go for the one animal which is specifically disallowed, smart move. And don’t get me wrong I’m not saying these are bad people but they are naive if they think that willfully breaking the rules doesn’t hold some potential for shitty situations like this to occur.

    East River Coop has to be the best value for quality of life in Manhattan, beautiful views, close to the river and parks, our own private park grounds, and perfectly removed from the madness of the city, but not so far that you can’t be there in a 10 minute walk. These people chose to live here, probably because of the (relatively) extreme low cost of apartments and rentals (Please Yuppies don’t take this as a pitch to move here from Gramercy or Williamsburg). But when you move to any building in the city, especially condos and coops, there are always rules. The fact that certain people find themselves above the rules, especially as newcomers towards all the LES’ers who have lived here all their lives, is very off putting to me.
    Also, to the point in the article about the uptick in dogs since 9/11, correlation is not causation. I personally find it offensive to the memory of what we lost to use it as justification for breaking the terms of your lease, and I also see it as an easy cop out. In my humble opinion, any uptick in dogs could be explained by the changing demographics of the neighborhood with the increase in yuppies moving to the area now that perceptions of the neighborhood are changing. These artsy fellows feel like they are above whatever “stupid” coop rules are in place because “fuck the establishment maaaaan.”

  • david

    I know Andie. She is a dog owner and is telling you exactly as it is. Such a dopey thing to say shop owner.