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Co-Op Neighbors Feud Over Stroller and Toys

By James Fanelli | January 25, 2013 10:09am
 Alison Zipes outside her East Side co-op building on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013.
Alison Zipes outside her East Side co-op building on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

MIDTOWN — A modern version of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud is playing out on the 14th floor of an East Side cooperative apartment — except this one involves toy guns rather than real six-shooters.

In one unit live Thomas Dorsey and Joseph Alfano, two gay men who accuse their next-door neighbors of being homophobic and having turned the public area into a romper room.

The neighbors, David and Alison Zipes, tell a much different version, claiming Dorsey and Alfano have harassed them and their child over the last two years. The family has complained to cops and the co-op, leading to Dorsey and Alfano's possible eviction at the end of the month.

Dorsey responded by filing a lawsuit against the co-op board on Thursday, accusing its members of "turning a blind eye to the Zipeses' objectionable behavior and siding arbitrarily with them."

 Two men at an East Side co-op filed a lawsuit against their neighbors over a spat involving the tenants' shared space. 
Two men at an East Side co-op filed a lawsuit against their neighbors over a spat involving the tenants' shared space. 
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

After the lawsuit was filed, a judge granted a temporary order postponing the board's plan to hold an eviction vote on Jan. 29.

"We're the only ones getting attacked here," Dorsey's lawyer, Steven Sladkus, said of the co-op board taking the Zipeses' side. "My client and his roommate have had a difficult time with this family."

Dorsey, a Lutheran pastor and former Pfizer executive, has lived in the building for 33 years — most of it on the 10th floor without any complaints, the lawsuit says. In 2009, when an apartment became available on the 14th floor, Dorsey bought it and moved into it with his roommate, Alfano.

"The Zipeses' use of the 14th floor for their personal use became apparent a few months after [Dorsey] and Mr. Alfano moved into the apartment," the lawsuit says.

David Zipes would wrestle, play football, run races and shoot toy guns with his son in the hallway, according to the lawsuit. He also allegedly painted pictures of his boy in the stairwell, leaving spatters from his brush on the walls.

When Alison Zipes got off the elevator, she would allegedly call out to her son, announcing her return. The lawsuit adds that the Zipeses' also parked their stroller and piled up recycled trash in the hall.

Dorsey claims he and Alfano never complained to the board in order "to foster a neighborly relationship," according to the lawsuit, but the interactions became more acrimonious. In February 2012, the board handed Dorsey and Alfano a notice to cure, instructing them to cease any threats against the Zipeses'.

The notice cited the fact that police were called twice to Dorsey's apartment after receiving complaints Alfano had harassed the Zipes.

Dorsey says in the lawsuit that he and Alfano never made threats, but that the board was quick to side with the Zipeses. The lawsuit adds that following the notice, the board never took any other action until after an incident on Dec. 15.

When Dorsey tried to enter the building that afternoon, he bumped into David Zipes and his son. Dorsey claims Zipes blocked his path, pointed at him and said, "They got Jerry Sandusky and they are going to get [Mr. Alfano]."

The neighbors' interactions remained tense for the rest of the month, the suit says, culminating with the board's notice of an eviction proceeding in early January.

Alison Zipes declined to speak about the situation when leaving her building Friday, walking hand-in-hand with a young boy.

"It's family day," she said, refusing to comment further.

A source close to the Zipeses says Alfano has stolen from the family and "threatened and bullied" them, leading David Zipes to call cops three times and to twice go down to the local precinct stationhouse.

The source added that the Zipeses' son acts no different than any other child in the building and is generally quiet.

"There are children on every single floor," the source said. "This isn't uncommon to see toys in the hall and the boots and the umbrellas.

"This is nonsense," the source said of the lawsuit. "They're not even dealing with what the real issues are."

The co-op board president could not be reached for comment.

With additional reporting by Alan Neuhauser.