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.