Michael Goodwin, The New York Times, Nov. 16, 1980
At the Belnord, the wages of battle is more battle. And more battle. And more battle.
The turn-of-the-century apartment house, which covers the square block between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th and 87th Streets, is one of New York’s grandest luxury buildings. Built to copy the Dakota on Central Park West, and house the rich unable to gain entry there, the Belnord included features desi gned to set it apart from th e mass of city structures: a formal garden in the courtyard, co pper bay windows, terra cotta arches and extraordinarilylarge apartme nts.
But the splendor that was the Belnord‘s is mostly gone. Although Isaac Bashevis Singer and scores of other success stories live there now, much of the grace has been chased by the shrill battles pitting many of the 225 current residents against the owner, Lillian Seril.
The disputes, some of which began nearly a decade ago, often degenerate into shouting matches concentrating on personalities. They have frustrated both sides as well as generations of judges and city housing officials who have sifted through volumes of court papers, complaints and studies in vain attempts to make peace.
Meanwhile, the building, a Renaissance-inspired structure that has landmark status, is deteriorating, according to many of those involved. The roof, the elevators and the electrical and plumbing systems are said to need major repairs. Chunks of ceiling in some apartments have collapsed and other apartments have leaks. The platform holding the garden is cracking, shifting and leaking and stalactites have formed in the basement.
nspectors report 132 violations of the hou sing code at the Belnord, 11 considered serious, including the leaks. Inspectors from the Department of Buildings have cited 15 vio lations on the elevators, although none are considered hazardous. The building owes $65,000 for back taxes and water and sewer charges.
“What we have is a building that’s rotting under our feet.”Joseph Simons, architect, member, Belnord Landmark Conservancy
“The issues at stake at the Belnord (‘Controversy Lives On at the Belnord,’ Nov. 16) go beyond this particular building and its tenants. What is at stake is the city’s ability to preserve housing for the middle class in Manhattan in the face of owners’ power.”Tom Viitullo-Martin, Sumner Rosen, Co-chairs, Belnord Tenant Association