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'Law & Order' Star Claims Her Co-op Was a Death Trap

By James Fanelli | September 20, 2012 9:03am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A "Law & Order" star claims her co-op could have turned into a real-life crime scene.

Emmy-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson — who played NYPD Lt. Anita Van Buren on the long-running crime drama — has sued the co-op board and property manager at her ritzy Washington Heights flat, accusing them of endangering her life by negligently sealing off ventilation to her stove and range without telling her.

"Sealing off the ventilation left plaintiff in jeopardy of her life as the gasses could have backed up, exploded, or otherwise cause serious harm to plaintiff and the apartment," Merkerson claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Merkerson claims the 2008 ventilation fiasco was one of many headaches she has endured since she bought her $1.7 million apartment in the historic Riviera building at 790 Riverside Dr. at 157th Street.

She also accuses the property manager, Midboro Management Incorporated, of failing to fix leaks, which have damaged windows, paint and plaster in her apartment. The leaks have also led to mold build-up, primarily in her master bedroom, her lawsuit says.

The leaks go back to 2002, when she purchased her pad, according to the lawsuit. At the time, Midboro and the co-op board warned her that the roof to her apartment was in danger of collapsing. As a result she had to rent another apartment for a year while extensive repairs were done, the lawsuit says.

Merkerson says she also gave the board and Midboro an inspection report by an architect that revealed various cracks in the building's brick exterior and the need for structural shoring in her apartment, but they have failed to fix the problems.

The lawsuit says the co-op board and the property manager have failed to maintain the Riviera as a "first-class building" and to allow her "to quietly enjoy" the apartment.

Merkerson is seeking an order forcing Midboro and the board to repair the leaks in her apartment. She is also seeking at least $2 million.

Midboro did not respond to a request of comment. Merkerson's lawyer did not return a call. The actress was on "Law & Order" until 2010.