Seniors feud over financials at Calverton community

07/15/2012 9:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A home at the Windcrest East retirement community, where three residents are insisting the association’s financial information be kept on site for easy access.

Earlier this year, a trio of homeowners at a 55-and-older Calverton community wanted to see the financial records of their homeowners association. The owners were allegedly told the records would be made readily available.

As long as they drove to Queens to see them.

The three have since filed a petition in state Supreme Court against the community’s homeowners association, saying its board of directors is allegedly breaking state law and community bylaws by keeping the association’s financial records in the office of a managing company nearly 70 miles away.

The petition, called an Article 78, asks a judge to direct the Windcrest East Homeowners Association to keep its financial books at the complex, located on Golden Spruce Drive in Calverton.

According to the community’s bylaws, the “principal office” of the homeowners association should be in Riverhead Town, and the treasurer should keep copies of the association’s financial reports available to residents.

Another section of the bylaws states that the management company that oversees maintenance of the properties cannot act as caretaker for the homeowners association’s financial records.

But, according to the petition, that is exactly what has happened.

The records are only available if community members make the 130-mile round trip to the Queens location where they are stored, the petition states.

“For whatever reason the board has chosen to keep these records out in Queens,” said David Barshay, the attorney for the petitioners. “We’ve always taken the position that … this isn’t a unreasonable request. It’s important to remember this is an elderly community and some of them are unable to drive.”

The petitioners asked the board of directors to move the financial records, but board members allegedly refused.

Attorneys for the homeowners association could not be reached for comment.

The board president could also not be reached.

James Salvaggio, one of the petitioners and a homeowner at Windcrest East, declined to speak about the legal proceedings.

Mr. Barshay said a monthly newsletter put out by the homeowners association — called “The Windcrest East Breeze” — keeps mentioning the issue. At first, writers for the Breeze were calling the petition a “lawsuit.” That’s inaccurate, he said, because his clients aren’t seeking any monetary damages.

A May edition of the newsletter calls the claims “baseless.”

“Despite spending most of the day in court in an effort to reach a fair and reasonable settlement, each and every one of the Board’s proposals was promptly rejected by the Petitioners, and thus, no such settlement was had,” the entry reads. “As a result, the Board is left with no option but to continue defending the baseless claims brought against it.”

It could not be determined if the petitioners had an opportunity to give their take on the court proceeding for the newsletter, although a open letter the trio circulated around the community insisted they “are not permitted to express” their thoughts in the Breeze.
“To set the scene correctly, we were never in a courtroom,” the memo reads, “we never spoke to a judge or arbitrator.

“Our request is simple,” it later states. “Must we, or anybody for that matter, make this trip or not? It’s that simple … Why go to these lengths to make the process difficult? Do you think the [Board of Directors} is trying to hide something?”

Mr. Barshay said the community at large hasn’t responded positively to the petitioners’ actions against the board.

“They’re taking a lot of heat from their co-owners for them suing the board,” he said. “But this isn’t a lawsuit. This is merely a petition to determine who is right.”

Mr. Barshay said he has never heard of an incident like this one before.

“This is a rare occurrence,” he noted.

A Supreme Court judge is expected to rule on the case next month, Mr. Barshay said.

psquire@timesreview.com