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NEW YORK � Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has found himself on the losing end of a lawsuit involving a broker’s commission on his Manhattan townhouse. Supreme Court Justice Rolando Acosta has ruled that Seinfeld must pay a real estate broker a commission of at least $98,750 for the $3.95 million townhouse he and his wife purchased in 2005. Seinfeld had testified that the broker, Tamara Cohen, did not deserve the payment, as she had not been available when he and his wife, Jessica, wanted to see the West 82nd Street home. The Seinfelds also testified that they did not know that the reason Cohen did not return their calls was that she was an observant Jew and observed the Sabbath. Justice Acosta held that, notwithstanding Cohen’s failure to immediately return the Seinfelds’ calls, “[T]he evidence clearly indicates that she served as the Seinfelds’ real estate broker.” The existence of an oral agreement between the Seinfelds and Cohen and testimony by various witnesses regarding a co-brokerage agreement established that Cohen was entitled to one-half of the broker’s fee, according to the decision, Cohen v. Seinfeld, 105916/05. The decision will be published Friday. “The only real issue here,” Justice Acosta concluded, “is whether the broker’s fee was five or six percent.” Cohen began showing apartments and buildings to the Seinfelds’ “estate manager,” Steven Galistinos, in September 2004, according to the decision. In January 2005, Cohen showed the 82nd Street townhouse to Galistinos. The listing broker for the townhouse agreed to “co-broke” the house with her. On Feb. 11, Cohen again showed the house to Galistinos, who this time was accompanied by Seinfeld. On either Feb. 12 or Feb. 13, the Seinfelds � having failed to reach Cohen � went back to the house on their own. After touring the premises with the owner, they agreed to buy the building for just under $4 million. Neither broker was present for the negotiation. On Feb. 13, Cohen checked her messages and learned that the Seinfelds’ estate manager, Galistinos, had called her. She then spoke with the listing broker who told her that the Seinfelds and the building’s owner had agreed to a sale. When the Seinfelds refused to pay Cohen a commission, she initiated the present action against the Seinfelds, the seller and the listings broker. The defendants moved for summary judgment; Cohen cross-moved for partial summary judgment. Justice Acosta sided with Cohen, finding that the Seinfelds had in fact agreed to pay her a commission. “[T]he sales contract confirms much of Cohen’s claim,” Justice Acosta wrote. The court also cited the work performed by Cohen for the Seinfelds as a broker.
The Seinfelds testified that they did not know that the reason Cohen did not return their calls was that she was an observant Jew and observed the Sabbath.

“Indeed, she located several townhouses at Galistinos’ request, showed the premises in question to Galistinos and Jessica Seinfeld … and made arrangements to have the Seinfelds see the premises the following week,” the judge wrote. In ruling for Cohen, Justice Acosta found the only unresolved issue to be whether the commission she shares with the listing broker should total 5 percent or 6 percent of the sale � either $197,500 or $237,000. Cohen’s share will be either $98,750 or $118,500. Steven Landy and Erik Berglund of Steven Landy & Associates represented Cohen. “I am pleased that the court system does come through for the little guy now and again,” Landy said Friday. “This is simply a case of greed. There really was no reason to withhold money that this independent broker spent a lot of time earning.” Richard Menaker of Menaker & Hermann represented the Seinfelds and the seller, Ray Mayeri. Menaker said he intends to move to reargue. “Not a single one of the [six] arguments we made was addressed,” Menaker said. “At the oral argument I pointed out that Ms. Cohen is not licensed. You can only recover on an oral agreement if you’re a licensed real-estate broker,” he added, noting the purported oral agreement between Cohen and the Seinfelds. Landy said that Cohen is in fact licensed and that the court apparently agreed. Mark Fass is a reporter with the New York Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate.

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