A wall goes up in Brooklyn couple's house

Chana Taub alleges Simon abused her; he calls her an "Orthodox Imelda Marcos."

simon taub 88 (photo credit: )
simon taub 88
(photo credit: )
Like two Cold War adversaries, Chana and Simon Taub are separated by a wall - one that was built straight down the middle of their home to keep the bickering spouses apart. Neither one wanted to move out of their beloved Brooklyn house, and so - in one of the strangest divorce battles the city has ever seen - a white drywall partition was erected a few weeks ago on orders from a judge. The divorce case, which has been staggering through the courts for nearly two years, has been dubbed Brooklyn's "War of the Roses," after the 1989 movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as a battling couple. Aside from the wall, the Taub version of the story has some other farcical elements: Chana says her husband of more than 20 years has bugged her phones. Simon says his wife owns too many shoes. It is not as if the Taubs have no place else to go. For one thing, they own a place two doors down. But for reasons that include stubbornness, spite and their love of the home, both insist on staying in this particular house in Borough Park, a heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. "It's my house. And emotionally, in my age, I want to be in my house!" says Simon, 57, who was the one who requested the wall. He calls his wife a gold-digger who is after his money. Chana, 57, who claims her husband abused her, says she has as much right to stay as he does, if not more. "I need a house to live in and money to live on!" she says. "I worked very hard, like a horse, like a slave for him." In New York City, with its soaring real estate prices, it is not unusual for couples to fight over a house or refuse to move out during divorce proceedings. Judges sometimes ask couples to set boundaries, such as letting a spouse have access to the study during a certain part of the day. But an actual wall? That is a new one, says Barry Berkman, a New York divorce lawyer. The wall divides the living room from the staircase on the bottom floor of the Taubs' richly decorated, wood-paneled three-story house, whose market value has been put at $923,000 by the city. She gets the top floor, where the bedrooms are situated, along with the kitchen on the second floor. He gets the living room on the first floor and the dining room on the second floor. So that they do not run into each other on the second floor, the door between the dining room and the kitchen is barricaded on both sides. One of the couple's children is staying with Dad; three others are staying with Mom. Chana says that for two decades she put up with physical and mental abuse that grew more severe over the years. She says she had to flush the toilet after him, and put on his socks and shoes for him. He became so violent by mid-2005 that she filed for divorce, she says. Simon denies ever laying a hand on Chana, and says he gave her a luxurious lifestyle. But he says his sweater manufacturing company went bankrupt in the late 1990s, and he suffered a second heart attack in 2005 that only worsened their financial problems. He says she wants a divorce to squeeze what money he has left. Chana says she does not want much from her husband, mainly just alimony, child support and a fair share of property. In August 2005, a judge said Simon, whom Chana had forced out of the house, could move back in after building a wall. Chana appealed. An appeals court eventually allowed the wall, calling it a novel concept. The wall went up in December, and Simon moved back in. At one point during the transition, someone said Chana had 300 pairs of shoes trapped on Simon's side. Chana claims that is a lie Simon cooked up to make her look like the Imelda Marcos of the Orthodox Jewish community, a reference to the former Philippines first lady and her huge shoe collection. "I am not interested in shoes," she says. Simon retorts: "Maybe it was 299. I didn't count it." Chana says that since Simon has returned, he has been monitoring her via video cameras. Simon says the surveillance goes both ways, and points to cameras on her side, though Chana claims she does not control those. Chana says Simon has bugged her phones. Simon says that is crazy - he does not care who she talks to. Kimberly Flemke, a couples therapist in Philadelphia, says when spouses go so far as to refuse to leave a house while divorcing, it often means neither is ready to move on. "It's clear that if they're going to go this length, there's still far too much connection," she says. "I would hope they'd both go to therapy."