THE CASE OF THE MISSING WIFE
By Nicholas Biondi
On the front page of the New York Times on May 14, 1997 the following headline appeared: “A Co-op must pay $640,000 for denying sublet to Black.” The award money was paid to Gregory Broome, a Black attorney, and his White wife, Shannon Broome, also an attorney, because their application to rent an apartment in the Beekman Hill House Apartment Corporation had been turned down. This was the Broome’s dream apartment. “We walked into 7A and fell in love with it,” Mr. Broome testified.
The NY Times further reported, “The Broome’s search for a new apartment began in early 1995. They scanned the classifieds, visited some 60 apartments and finally, over the Memorial Day Weekend, found a two bedroom apartment on the 7th floor of Beekman Hill House. They liked its built in bookcase, pass-through kitchen, closet space, and the location. It was just a few blocks from the law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where Mr. Broome worked as a tax lawyer.”
But there was a problem in getting this dream apartment. How could the Broomes fill out the application forms, supply verification letters of employment, provide credit histories, obtain three letters of personal references, and be interviewed by a sub-committee of the Board of Directors of the co-op by the planned June 7, 1995 move-in date?
They met Simone Demou, the owner of the apartment they were attempting to rent, on May 30, 1995. Simone Demou assured the Broomes that no board approval or board interview was required. On May 31, 1995 Gregory Broome found out that Simone Demou had lied to him. He learned this from the management company and from a conversation he had with Nick Biondi on Friday evening, at approximately 9:30 PM on June 2, 1995. Nick Biondi, in his attempt to accommodate Simone Demou’s fanatical attempt to rent the apartment as soon as possible and Greg Broome’s personal deadline of June 7, 1995 for a move-in date, agreed to meet the Broomes for an interview on the next business day, Monday evening, June 5, 1995. He told Greg Broome that it was contingent on his being able to get one other board member, to form a subcommittee of two board members.
After work on the evening of June 5, 1995 at 6:30 PM Nick Biondi went to the basement of the co-op building where interviews were held and met with Michael Silverman, a board member, which formed a committee of two to interview Mr. & Mrs. Broome. This was the first time that Nick Biondi and Michael Silverman saw the admission package that was submitted on behalf of Shannon & Gregory Broome.
The June 5 Meeting
“On Monday, June 5, Mr. Broome met with a subcommittee of the Board, Mr. Biondi and Michael Silverman, at approximately 6:30 PM. It was at this meeting that Mr. Biondi and the other defendants first discovered that Mr. Broome is African American. Upon meeting Mr. Broome in person, Mr. Biondi’s tone became markedly less friendly than on the June 2 phone call.”
The above complaint language states, “Upon meeting Mr. Broome in person, Mr. Biondi’s tone became markedly less friendly than on the June 2 phone call.”
The complaint alleges that it was because we discovered “that Mr. Broome is African American.” If there was any change in my tone it was because I first discovered that Mrs. Broome would not be present at this interview. I was annoyed at the fact that I had tried to accommodate the owner and the renters within a short time frame and Mrs. Shannon Broome, who claimed in a NY Times interview, that, “The Broome’s search for a new apartment began in early 1995. They scanned the classifieds, visited some 60 apartments and finally, over the Memorial Day Weekend, found a two bedroom apartment on the 7th floor of Beekman Hill House.” Shannon Broome had time within six months to visit 60 or so apartments and did not show up for the interview of the “dream apartment”? I thought to myself, today is June 5th. Tomorrow, June 6th, I have to go out to Long Island for business. How in the heck was I going to arrange another meeting for Tuesday evening, June 6th, with another board member to interview the missing wife, who was too busy to show up to be interviewed for her “dream apartment”?