View Full Version : Sleepless, and Litigious, in the Apartment Below

June 7th, 2003, 07:10 AM
June 7, 2003

Sleepless, and Litigious, in the Apartment Below


A bond salesman named David Pullman has recently joined the ranks of people looking for an apartment in Manhattan. He is not married, has no pets, does not smoke, and would prefer to live on the Upper West Side because he likes to run in Central Park. All in all, he appears to have the makings of a model tenant.

There is one thing, though. His current neighbors consider him to be so objectionable that a couple of years ago they gathered in the laundry room of their co-op building and voted overwhelmingly to throw him out. It was a watershed moment in an unusually bitter dispute over the most routine of tenant squabbles: noisy upstairs neighbors.

Last month, after years of contentious, almost comical litigation — including the time one of Mr. Pullman's many lawyers advised another lawyer not to get his "panties in a bunch" — the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, weighed in. It ruled that Mr. Pullman's co-op at 40 West 67th Street had the right to force him to sell his shares to the building and move out.

Beyond the debate it has triggered about tenants' rights and power-mad co-op boards, the Pullman case serves as a reminder of how one person can affect dozens of lives simply by becoming a neighbor — and of how compromise is so essential to existence in this thin-skinned city of eight million.

Compromise is especially necessary in co-op buildings, where residents own shares of a corporation rather than individual apartments, according to Michael H. Schill, a professor of law and urban planning at New York University. "Any successful cooperative is going to have residents who are willing to pitch in and give their own time and effort for the common good," he said.

Mr. Pullman disagreed. Co-ops, he said, are "an oxymoron."

The 1998 courtship of David Pullman and 40 West 67th Street seemed like a perfect match. He was 37, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a successful architect of so-called Bowie bonds, in which entertainers like the rock singer David Bowie sell bonds backed by their song royalties.

The handsome prewar building had nine stories with a penthouse, about 40 units, and a tantalizing proximity to Central Park, where Mr. Pullman liked to race against others. "I'm very competitive," he said during a recent interview. "I try not to let anyone pass me when I'm running."

Mr. Pullman paid about $650,000 for 7B, the old Berkowitz apartment, and moved in during the last weeks of 1998. For a few months the only conflict was the co-op board's rejection of his request for increased security and improved mailboxes.

Then, in the late spring of 1999, Mr. Pullman began complaining about the late-night noise emanating from 8B, the apartment directly above him. The property manager, Jeff Brown, gave Mr. Pullman what he later called a "mini-lecture on `cooperative living,' " and Mr. Brown suggested that Mr. Pullman go upstairs and work things out with his fellow shareholder.

After arguing that it was not his job to work things out, Mr. Pullman finally went upstairs to discuss his concerns about noise with the tenants: Norman Indictor, a retired chemistry professor, and his wife, Rina, both in their mid-60's at the time. They collect rare books, they have lived in 8B since 1967, and they decline to discuss anything having to do what became known as "the Pullman matter."

Scott Himes, one of the Indictors' lawyers, said the couple believed that they were in compliance with co-op rules about carpeting by having large area rugs cover the floors of their bedrooms. The Berkowitzes had never complained, he said, but after hearing Mr. Pullman, the Indictors installed wall-to-wall carpeting in one of their two bedrooms.

"They went beyond what was required to accommodate him," Mr. Himes said.

Mr. Pullman, though, remained annoyed with the property manager and the co-op board because, he said, "I made a complaint and they turned it on me." He notified the co-op board that he was owed $12,000 for two months' mortgage and maintenance, and $8,000 for two months of lost sleep.

He said the other day he wanted to send the message that the building's failure to heed his complaints would cost the co-op board money — "and it did, in terms of legal fees." Asked how he had calculated a monetary amount for lost sleep, Mr. Pullman said, "I have a pretty good mathematical mind."

A few weeks later, Mr. Pullman charged that his "heavy-footed" neighbors upstairs had not carpeted both bedrooms and were illegally operating a bookbinding business out of their apartment, an allegation they denied.

Late one night in September 1999, Mr. Pullman said, he was forced to go upstairs to demand that Mr. Indictor stop playing music, including show tunes, at an extremely high volume. Exactly what happened after Mr. Pullman knocked on his neighbor's door is under dispute, although it became the signal event in the crisis at 40 West 67th Street.

Mr. Pullman said his neighbor opened the door and "hit me a number of times." Mr. Indictor denies this, according to another of his lawyers, Paul Shechtman, who said his client claims to be "too old to be pushing anybody."

Mr. Pullman called the police. Mr. Indictor spent the night in a police station lockup, charged for the first time in his life with a crime: assault.

That his alleged attacker was nearly 30 years his elder is irrelevant, Mr. Pullman said; Sean Connery, he said, is in his 70's.

Arrests are not common at 40 West 67th Street. Nor are fliers like the "Attack Crime" leaflet that Mr. Pullman quickly began circulating, which said the rare-book collector who lived above him had not only attacked him, but had also managed to shut off Mr. Pullman's telephone. Mr. Indictor, he wrote, had "the makings of a psychopath" and should be evicted immediately.

The co-op's board of directors responded with a flier that seemed to blame Mr. Pullman. It recounted Mr. Pullman's nine months of prodigious complaints, and reminded tenants that the Indictors' behavior had never been questioned before Mr. Pullman moved in.

The flier angered Mr. Pullman because, he said, he was being cast as villain rather than as victim. He detected a conflict of interest because the co-op board president, Brian Pusch, who is a lawyer, was friendly with the Indictors.

So he issued another flier that added new accusations: that the Indictors were using "toxic and flammable materials" in their bookbinding business, and that the wives of two principals in the quarrel were "of intimate personal relations."

In court papers, the women and their husbands emphatically denied the assertion. So how did Mr. Pullman come up with this? He said during a deposition a couple of years ago that he based it on "a consensus in the building" and something that Mario the super had told him. He added, "They say all rumors are true."

Cooperation went out the co-op door. Mr. Pullman stepped up his demands that the Indictors be thrown out. The co-op board accused Mr. Pullman of not having carpeting in his apartment. The Indictors moved out of their apartment for a few weeks to avoid violating the restraining order obtained by Mr. Pullman; Mr. Indictor also had to promise in court to behave for several months, after which his assault case would be dismissed.

There were so many lawsuits and countersuits that they had to be labeled Pullman I through Pullman VII. Before, a typical topic of conversation at 40 West 67th Street might be about how one of the washers vibrated too much. Now, the only subject seemed to be Pullman: Pullman, Pullman, Pullman.

One night in June 2000, many of the co-op's shareholders met in the laundry room, the usual place for gatherings. After a couple of hours of emotional discussion, the group voted to terminate Mr. Pullman's shares, saying, among other things, that he had caused Mr. Indictor's arrest and circulated "derogatory and defamatory" fliers.

"A lot of people were really emotional, saddened by the whole thing, but thought it was really the only thing to do." said a shareholder, one of several of Mr. Pullman's neighbors to request anonymity.

Mr. Pullman did not attend the meeting, which he dismissed as a "kangaroo court."

The tensions at 40 West 67th Street did not die down; tenants took to peering through the small elevator window before boarding, to see who might be inside. Meanwhile, the taking of depositions became so acrimonious that a court referee had to be assigned to the case. In his lawsuits, Mr. Pullman argued that the building was discriminatory: that it put up Christmas decorations, but no menorahs, and that a tenant on the first floor — "whose self-imposed dress code is that of a fascist" — had a large painting of Hitler hanging near his front door.

The tenant simply preferred black attire, neighbors say. And the painting, which depicts Hitler glowering over the bodies of Holocaust victims, actually makes a powerful anti-Nazi statement.

Hitler lingered in the dispute, though, so much so that at one point one of Mr. Pullman's lawyers felt the need to ask Mr. Indictor: "Are you a fan of Adolf Hitler?" Mr. Indictor said he was not.

According to court records, Mr. Pullman estimated that the damages he had incurred in this protracted dispute totaled more than $14 million, a figure that included more than $1 million for loss of sleep that affected "work and income."

After four years of squabbles, "the Pullman matter" drew to a close with last month's ruling by the Court of Appeals. There are still some matters to resolve: the defamation suits, the legal fees, the specific day of departure. But Mr. Pullman will soon be packing up and leaving 40 West 67th Street.

He seems ready to move on, saying that he was proud of the fight he fought for tenants everywhere, and that he was looking for another apartment in Manhattan.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 7th, 2003, 09:08 AM
moral of the story: don't bully your neighbors, but if you have to, make sure you scare the sh!t out of them too

June 7th, 2003, 12:34 PM
I had a downstairs neighbor once who thought I was too noisy. *What a pain in the ass he was. *That god he wasn't even half as crazy and methodical as this guy.

June 7th, 2003, 03:37 PM
if this guy were married he probably would have come up with something much simpler like not flushing the toilet for a couple of days--that usually does it

June 8th, 2003, 09:57 AM
Glad this jerk got the boot.

June 8th, 2003, 10:03 AM
Quote: from NYatKNIGHT on 9:57 am on June 8, 2003
Glad this jerk got the boot. me too but those old farts can be royal pains when they want to be and it sounds like they wanted to be

June 10th, 2003, 07:21 AM
Ever seen the early Friends episodes with Mr Heckles? *'Could you keep it down? *You're disturbing my birds.' *'You don't have birds.' *'I could have birds.'

June 25th, 2003, 03:25 PM
To set the record straight!!!!!
Bowie Bond NOT a Pullman Innovation,
Holds New York Supreme Court
David Pullman, who has all along been claiming as the innovator of the bonds secured on David Bowie's music royalty, called Bowie Bonds, suffered a major setback when the New York Supreme Court held that it was the Rascoff/Zysblat Organization which actually developed the product and Pullman's erstwhile employer was only employed as a marketing agent for the bond. Pullman claimed, among other things, that he and not Bowie business managers R.Z.O. created the concept of the Bowie Bond, and only he had the rights to utilize trade secrets derived from the transaction. In her ruling, New York State Supreme Court Justice Beatrice Shainswit stated, "Neither the Pullman Group nor Pullman developed, or ever owned this alleged intellectual property." Notwithstanding Pullman's relentless advertising as creator of the bonds, he was unable to show any evidence to support his claims. Documents presented clearly established that R.Z.O. were the creators of the Bowie Bond concept. R.Z.O. then retained Pullman's employer Gruntal & Co (and later Fahnestock & Co.) to act as placement agent for this, first ever, securitization.
In response to other documents presented to the Court, Justice Shainswit further states that "Pullman concedes that his role...was as an employee hired to work on structured assets." She continues, "The Complaint is dismissed in it's entirety against all defendants" and the Court, "finds the ... claims to be without merit."
This loss to Pullman comes on the heels of the United States Patent and Trademark Office's refusal to allow Pullman use of or representation that the "Bowie Bond" mark is a trademark of his or of The Pullman Group.

June 25th, 2003, 03:31 PM
A similar posting in The Gothamist
Pullman Isaliar
I worked for David Pullman in the early 90s – and he is even more horrible than these articles suggest. *I have witnessed numerous occasions where he pinched women’s behinds, and made sleazy remarks, always with women that were dependent upon him for their jobs. *He on several occasions had sex in his office during business hours with various women. *
All of his claims of his various achievements are lies – he never went to Wharton – he took a summer course there! *He didn’t invent the Bowie Bond (for which he was in Time magazine). *He lied in said he did. *Evidence for this and other frauds are perpetrated all over the Web. *He is a pathological liar. *
Pullman’s favorite way of dealing with people who attend to set the record straight about who he is and what he has done are immediately slammed with defamation lawsuits. *This co-op story is only one of many, many incidents in which Pullman has shown himself to be the repellent reptile that he is. *He deserves whatever he gets.

June 25th, 2003, 03:35 PM
Gothamist loves this line: "That his alleged attacker was nearly 30 years his elder is irrelevant, Mr. Pullman said; Sean Connery, he said, is in his 70's."
On the face of it – his alleged attacker is 5 foot 8 inches and not in good health and Pullman is 6 foot 3 inches and 38 years old, and runs regularly for the Central Park Track Club. “His alleged attacker” suffers from an affliction (Myasthenia gravis) – which makes it very painful for him to lift his arms above his head. It makes it impossible for him to comb his own hair. He also has cataracts in both eyes, which recently had to be operated on.