Strokes bassist, realtor neighbor battle over backyard behind their homes
Nikolai Fraiture, the Grammy Award-winning bassist for the Strokes, is battling with his neighbor — a real estate executive with Cushman & Wakefield — over a yard placed behind their New York City apartments in a shared co-op building.
Toby Dodd and his wife, Julie de Pontbriand, filed a lawsuit last week with the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan claiming that they have the “exclusive rights” for the secret garden behind their building on King Street in the Hudson Square neighborhood of lower Manhattan, court documents show.
Dodd and de Pontbriand moved into their ground-floor apartment at 42 King Street in 2017, for which they paid more than $3 million, which came with its garden. The Dodds also bought a small room in 44 King Street, which they allege came with its garden, for $300,000.
Fraiture and his wife, Ilona, bought a ground-floor unit in 44 King Street and its basement in 2019. The rock star filed his own lawsuit in 2021 claiming the Dodds illegally combined the two gardens.
The Fraitures said in their lawsuit that the parlor floor, or first floor, of 44 King was once a single unit when the cooperative building was incorporated but that a previous owner of the parlor floor at 42 King purchased the parlor floor in his building at some point before 1985.
That previous owner, the Fraitures said, then created three “illegal openings” in a wall that separated the two buildings and thus created an illegal premises that spanned both addresses without approval from the Department of Buildings in New York City.
Then in 1985, the co-op board at 44 King resolved to split the parlor floor unit into two units called “Parlor Front Unit” and “Parlor Rear Unit.” The Fraitures said that the illegal openings were located in the Parlor Rear Unit, the room purchased by the Dodds for $300,000.
“Thus, by dividing the parlor floor unit, the Board essentially ceded the Parlor Rear Unit to the parlor floor unit in 42 King and, by extension, the shareholders of 42 King,” the Fraitures claim.
The Dodds alleged in their lawsuit that the Fraitures have “in bad faith” sought to push them from the property they own inside the 44 King building to take the garden for themselves.
“This scheme has now entered its final phase,” the Dodds said, lambasting the Fraitures for having allegedly “weaponized” their control over the co-op board in 44 King “for their own personal gain.”
The Dodds largely agreed in their lawsuit about many of the historical facts of the case but argued that the partition of the ground floor by 44 King was permanent and extended the garden for that building to that of 42 King.
In their lawsuit, the Dodds noted that the previous owner of their apartment who sold it to them had been under pressure to close up the wall openings at 44 King from the building’s co-op board but decided to sell the property instead.
During the sale, the Dodds admitted that they agreed to close up the openings but said that they “learned, however, that simply bricking up and permanently closing the wall openings could potentially create an illegality.”
The Dodds claim that one possible solution they had considered was selling their 44 King apartment, but not the garden, to the Fraitures who had just purchased their property. The Fraitures ultimately rebuffed the idea because the garden was not a part of the deal.