Village View residents sue over co-op board election


By Albert Amateau

A group of eight residents of Village View Houses, an East Village Mitchell-Lama co-op complex with 1,236 units, filed suit in State Supreme Court earlier this month charging irregularities in the last election for the co-op board of directors.

The plaintiffs, including three residents who ran unsuccessfully for the board on Nov. 10 of last year, want the court to throw out the election and order another “under impartial and independent supervision including a court-chosen referee.”

The 10 defendants sit on the 15-member board of Village View Housing Corporation, and include the five — four incumbents and one new member — elected in November and the board president, Adam Silvera.

“We have a general problem with the way the board perpetuates itself and doesn’t let anyone else know what’s going on,” said Paul Hellund, a candidate who organized Voices of Village View, a group of dissident residents.

“But the shareholder eligibility list at the polling place on Nov. 10 was ludicrously out of date,” Hellund said, adding, “The election supervisor told me my apartment in Building 1 was listed in the name of my wife’s mother, Vladmira Iwanusa, who died two years earlier. My wife had the 270 shares transferred shortly after her mother’s death, so I told the supervisor the list was in error and that I was entitled as her husband to vote because my wife had not voted earlier that day.”

Hellund went on to say that the supervisor consulted another supervisor who asked if he was on the income-eligibility affidavit that all residents of Mitchell-Lama city-supervised co-ops must file. When Hellund told her he was on the affidavit, she said, “As long as you’re listed you can vote,” so he signed the book and voted.

But Hellund insisted that voting eligibility in a limited-income housing co-op is not available to everyone who has filed an income affidavit

The suit, which requires a response from the defendants early next month, also charges that the election process violated Village View Housing Corporation bylaws and regulations of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The suit also charges that at least one shareholder who went to vote was told she had already voted by absentee ballot when she had never signed or filed an absentee ballot.

One board member, Oksana Sawaryn, elected in 2002, said a group of unnamed board members tried to trick her into signing a letter requesting that her name be withdrawn from the November 2005 election.

Sawaryn also contended a conflict of interest existed because the then president of the Village View board of directors, Ceres Shulman, served as chairperson of the elections committee last fall.

But Silvera, who became president of the co-op in January, issued a general denial of the charges, but declined at this time to discuss specific issues.

“The election was conducted in compliance with Village View Housing Corporation bylaws and the approval of H.P.D.,” Silvera said. “It was also under the supervision of the corporation’s attorney, Wolf Haldenstein, and we believe all the charges will prove to be baseless.” Silvera said that a specific reply to each charge will be made by the co-op’s attorney before the April 10 return date.

Dissidents also said that residents have been kept in the dark about a change in the co-op’s managing agent. Silvera told The Villager on March 27 that Cooper Square Management, the agency that has been running the seven-building complex since 2001, will be replaced on April 1 by Metro Management, a company that runs several housing developments in Manhattan.