Saturday, March 15, 2008

Co-op sues couple for Easter wreath

Daily News
BY JOSE MARTINEZ
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Saturday, March 15th 2008, 4:00 AM
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/03/15/2008-03-15_coop_sues_couple_for_easter_wreath.html

The grinches who stole Christmas are gunning for Easter.

The stuffy overlords of a posh Gramercy Park building are suing two men who thumb their noses at building rules by displaying holiday decorations on their apartment's door and windows.

"This is ridiculous," sniffed Richard Belza, 45. "It's not like we're damaging the place, and the decorations are very tasteful."

A lawyer for 32 Gramercy Park South said Belza and partner Andrew Meehan, 40, have received repeated reminders that holiday decorations are banned in the building.

"Rules are rules, that's part and parcel of living in a co-op," said Michelle Quinn, a lawyer for the co-op board. "If you want to put up holiday decorations, go live in a house somewhere."

Belza, a floral designer to the stars, said he and Meehan, a translator, have rotated their holiday displays for years without any complaints from neighbors or building management.

"I've gotten many compliments on my windows," he said. "People tell me they know what holiday is coming up just by looking at my windows."

Just this week, Belza said, he put up an Easter wreath featuring brightly colored eggs.

"It's not like it's propaganda or anything to do with politics," he said. "These are just holiday decorations."

Quinn said the decorations - particularly those for religious holidays - have the potential to offend neighbors in the gracious mid-century building.

The suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, points out that Meehan and Belza were warned in December about the wreath, garland and mat they put out for "the Winter holiday."

"This is a nice area," Quinn said. "You pay a lot of money for your co-op and you don't want to have to see tacky decorations."

The suit wants the men to be ordered to stop putting up any more displays. It also demands that Meehan and Belza pay the board's legal fees.

Belza, who said his past clients have included Mariah Carey and Chris Rock, countered that the co-op board needs to lighten up.

"I do stuff for celebrities, I work in the Hamptons and I can't decorate my own apartment?" he said. "Our decorations are festive."

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