Photo-Illustration: Lined; Screenshots: Crain Communications, East Side Feed, Inman, New York Times, Particle Media
New York real estate has always had notorious family dynasties, those descendants of descendants and their descendants: the Trumps, the Kushners, the Dursts, the Tishmans and the Lefraks, whose personal and professional lives merge in the tabloids with the occasional megadivorce Where murder trial. And those are just famously named empires – there are even more tiers of the rich and messy that you may not know but whose exploits are just as brazen. Last week, one such family, the Koeppels, made headlines as something out of Charles Dickens. dark house: “NYC man sues his mother for being a terrible landlord”, the New York Job said.
According Crain’s New York, who originally published the news, William Koeppel recently filed a lawsuit against his mother, Roberta Koeppel, alleging that she, along with her sister, are in fact sleep owners. In court documents, William claimed that the ten buildings under his mother’s supervision in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island had more than 1,000 violations regarding faulty services like elevators and boilers and noted that she was, in 2020 , named the 47th worst landlord in town by the Public Advocate’s Office. Koeppel claims his mother asked the management company used in the buildings, First Service Residential, to pay a violation fee instead of making the requested repairs. Roberta denied this in her depositions, saying she “visits properties periodically” and that First Service makes repairs when they need to be done, per Crain’s.
William, 62, is suing to have his 84-year-old mother and sister removed as trustees. William’s lawyer, with a editorial in Brooklyn Paper, framed the lawsuit as a matter of public safety, asking, “How many more New Yorkers need to be hurt before meaningful action is taken?”
But the current slice of Dome v. Dome is only the tip of a Succession-esque iceberg of family disputes and squabbles, complete with wedding dramas, award-winning poodles, and boats named for award-winning poodles. There is a decade-long lawsuit against William filed by some of his tenants, which is still dragging on; an indictment against William on charges that the tenants had to donate to Rudy Giuliani’s municipal campaign in order to rent him an apartment; battles over country club memberships; cops called to Palm Beach mansions. This isn’t even the first time that William Koeppel has sued his mother. So who are they?
The Koeppel real estate dynasty began with Abraham Koeppel in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. After Abraham, the family business moved to Manhattan and eventually split into two separate entities (both confusingly called Koeppel & Koeppel), one located downtown and primarily commercial, the other residential and uptown. William’s father, Robert A. (who, yes, married a woman named Roberta) was uptown Koeppels.
Bill started making headlines of his own in the 90s when he was embroiled in a series of scandals over his relationship with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Koeppel, then in his early 30s, was a big fundraiser for Giuliani’s mayoral campaigns. In a 1994 New York Time history, some have suggested that Koeppel was trying to curry favor with the future mayor in exchange for help with city assessments; others said that, no, Koeppel was just really, really in Giuliani. “He has an incredible admiration and affection for Rudy that is more intense than I’ve seen coming from almost anyone else,” the mayor’s campaign treasurer told the Time. (“He wants to be a friend. He wants people to like him,” Bill’s cousin suggested in the same article.) After Guiliani took office in 1994, Bill was made a volunteer on the board of administration of the Offtrack Betting Corporation. (although he resisted the much more visible and paid job of consumer commissioner), which he quit after it emerged he had provided apartments in his buildings to Giuliani’s campaign aides on leases that allowed them to defer paying rent for months, raising questions about illegal campaign donations. He also, in 1996, pleaded guilty to solicit donations for the Giuliani campaign from tenants and brokers in order to obtain rent-stabilized apartments. An agent told the Time he was sitting with a client in the office of the owner of one of Koeppel’s buildings when he received a call from Koeppel saying the broker was to write a check to the Giuliani campaign. “He phoned me and said we had to join the club,” he said.
At this point, Koeppel’s family conflict was already in full swing. His cousins, the Koeppels of downtown Koeppel & Koeppel, had no trouble during Bill’s legal troubles, tell the Time on how, while in law school, Bill allegedly went to Palm Beach every weekend, then failed the bar exam three times, then sued the exam for discrimination because he was dyslexic . After Giuliani took office, Bill apparently bragged about telling the administration that his cousins were evading taxes. He said the feud started because they blocked him from being a member of a Long Island country club.
As reported Spy at the time, Bill first sued his mother in 1997, following his father’s death the previous year. In that lawsuit, Bill alleged that Roberta “exiled” him from the family’s second home in Westchester and told the court that when he was a child she sedated him with drugs and locked up “in dog cages” (the Koeppels show poodles kept; Bill seems to have named his fishing boat after one of them). Other family members were called as witnesses. A cousin would have submitted in an affidavit that “ever since I’ve known Roberta, her whole world has revolved around acquiring more money and wealth, and more often than not at the expense of others. In my opinion, my cousin Roberta would throw anyone under the bus to get by when it comes to money. Roberta claimed, in turn, that her son had bugged her room. The antipathy was apparently so great that Koeppel had an armed guard at his Palm Beach wedding (his bride was a woman he met at a Giuliani fundraiser) to keep his mother from causing potential disruption, according to the 1998 gossip pages. of this review.
But that wasn’t all prize poodles and armed guards. The Koeppels had, after all, buildings to manage. In 2000, Bill was again in the news (in an article titled “Rudy Pal Boots Kids”) when Koeppel & Koeppel tried to evict a daycare center from an Upper West Side building by raising their rent from $5,000 to $22,000 after converting subsidized housing at market price. In 2011 he was prosecuted by nine residents of 350 E. 52nd Street for illegally charging market rents while receiving rent stabilization tax abatements. It was only a few months later that Koeppel became one of 12 owners to not to renew an agreement with the 32BJ SEIU Doormen and Porters Union after heated negotiations, during which tenants complained of mice, rats and maggots in the building.
More than a decade later, the lawsuit filed by the tenants at 350 East 52nd street is still ongoing, the tenants’ attorneys told Curbed. In February 2021, a judge granted them a significantly lower rent reduction than what they were being charged by Koeppel, which is challenging the decision all the way to the Supreme Court. To press conference in 2011, when tenants were protesting sanitation conditions after the union struggle, then-public attorney Bill de Blasio put it this way: “These charges are just the latest episode in a long history of harassment of tenants by Mr. Koeppel. It’s a pattern that goes back decades. The Koeppels, mother and son, were due back in court for their final trial on June 24, but the date has been rescheduled. The reunion will have to wait.