Landlord’s Nightmare Gets a New Landlord

A New York real estate rental story

By JOSH BARBANEL Jan. 23, 2005

AFTER an extraordinary court fight including three bankruptcy filings, five eviction orders and $87,000 in back rent, Peter Hall, a former professional football player who is a financial consultant, has moved out of the $5,500-a-month triplex apartment he rented in a brownstone on West 90th Street — but not before skirmishing with his next landlord.

On Jan. 11, Mr. Hall, his wife, three children, two dogs and several birds packed up their belongings and moved on to a $9,500-a-month rental apartment with river views, bringing an end to a 15-month legal conflict with his landlady, Berryl Fox, a psychologist, who lived in the two lower floors of the brownstone, near Riverside Drive.

During their eviction battle, Dr. Fox learned that Mr. Hall and his wife, Anne Torselius Hall, had a long history in housing court, including prior eviction proceedings at high-rent apartments and multiple bankruptcy filings that automatically delayed eviction orders.

Mr. Hall, who is now in his 60’s, played one season with the New York Giants in the 1960’s. He had been accused in the past in civil cases and one criminal case of orchestrating a series of investment frauds, but the criminal charges were dropped. He also pleaded guilty to fraud charges in Detroit in the 1970’s in connection with a housing project built with federal and state funds, and paid a $2,000 fine, according to newspaper accounts at the time.

After a third bankruptcy filing delayed an eviction yet again late last month, the Halls moved only nine blocks away, to a large corner apartment on the ninth floor of a rental building at 270 Riverside Drive. The apartment has four bedrooms and a maid’s room, sweeping river views, a Wolf stove and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. The building owners had recently restored the facade, bought out some long-term rent regulated tenants and, at a recent open house, offered some vacant apartments that had been renovated for monthly rents from $3,500 to $9,500.

Officials at Goodstein Management, the management company that runs the building and rented the apartment to the Halls, declined to discuss the case and would not explain how they missed the Halls’ troubled rental history.

But after the lease was signed and after an initial account of the Halls’ rental troubles appeared in The New York Times last month, the building’s owner, William G. Montgomery, sued the Halls in Housing Court seeking to evict them even before they moved in. Court papers filled in some missing details.

The suit, filed on Dec. 30, indicated that the apartment was not rented directly by the Halls. It was rented in the name of a private trust used by Mr. Hall, the Gramercy International Investment Trust. At a hearing several days later, the Halls, the trust and Mr. Montgomery filed a settlement agreement. Under the deal, the Halls agreed to waive many of their rights to fight evictions in housing or bankruptcy courts, and to pay a $57,000 deposit, a $9,500 rent check and $2,100 in renovation costs. In exchange, they were allowed to move in under a two-year lease.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fox is still trying to collect the back rent that the Housing Court ordered the Halls to pay.

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