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Seward Park Co-op Members to File Lawsuit Over Parking Garage Privatization

 Attorney Ezra Glaser appeared at Tuesday's Seward Park Cooperative shareholders meeting.
Attorney Ezra Glaser appeared at Tuesday's Seward Park Cooperative shareholders meeting.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

LOWER EAST SIDE — Disgruntled residents of the Seward Park Cooperative will file a lawsuit against the building's board of directors, which they claim underhandedly instilled a valet system in the building's parking garage to turn a profit without consulting shareholders.

Attorney Ezra Glaser met with shareholders of the co-op on Tuesday to discuss plans to file a lawsuit within the coming weeks in an attempt to invalidate the building's contract with Icon Parking, which has been tapped to operate the garage. 

Shareholders claim the building's board of directors secured the contract behind closed doors and with no consideration for residents who would be impacted by the decision.

"The thing that really bothers us here is that six people on the board made a decision that affected over 300 people," said Don West, president of the 7th Precinct Community Council, who has spearheaded the movement to oust Icon's contract. "There's a lack of transparency."

The change came in early April, when shareholders claim the parking system changed "overnight" without the courtesy of a meeting. While 380 shareholders in the co-op previously had designated parking spots in the garage, drivers must now hand over their keys to an Icon employee who will park the vehicle. 

The abrupt switch led to accusations of gentrification, the Lo-Down reported at the time, while drivers have also complained that they dislike letting others operate their cars. Four residents have claimed their cars have been damaged while driven by Icon employees.

"How many people here are happy with the garage the way it is?" West asked the dozens of shareholders gathered at Tuesday's meeting with Glaser. No one raised their hands or voiced approval.

But the board of directors has staunchly defended its decision to make the switch, citing much-needed revenue it will reap from the deal as well as additional parking spaces the new operation will potentially create. 

A letter to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer stated the switch will generate a benefit of $500,000 annually, according to the Lo-Down. Meanwhile, hundreds of shareholders remain on a waitlist for parking spots — the new operation could allow the building to reconfigure the space to create roughly 100 additional spots, the board claimed.

While West has voiced fears that letting in the additional parkers will displace long-term residents, the board of directors has flatly denied that this is the case. 

"We have made it very clear...that no shareholders with parking have been or will be displaced from the garage due to new shareholders also gaining access," said general manager Frank Durant in a letter to all shareholders.

In the same letter, Durant further claimed the majority of shareholders have voiced approval of the switch, and that valet operation is the norm in similar buildings throughout the city.

"The vast majority of garages in Manhattan are attended by parking companies like Icon," said Durant.

Glaser at the meeting called the assertion "arrogant" and "appalling." The co-op is a residential building, he said, and principles of cooperative living should be applied in making such a huge decision for the building.

"The utter arrogance of this is just amazing to me," he said. "The fact that you switched to a completely different parking situation overnight — the arrogance is bizarre."

Glaser said he is currently in the process of gathering plaintiffs for the suit and plans to file in two or three weeks. He will be working alongside District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, who on the same day announced that she will be running for State Assembly in the coming election, the Lo-Down reported

Frank Durant did not respond to additional requests for comment.