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Judge Ordered Some New Outfits for Astor

Court documents have been opened in the dispute over care of the N.Y. philanthropist.

September 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — A judge wants the old, smelly couch and tattered nightgowns that became symbols of the family feud over the care of 104-year-old philanthropist Brooke Astor thrown out, according to court papers made public Thursday.

Astor's grandson Philip Marshall went to state Supreme Court in New York City seeking to have his father removed as her guardian. He claimed that under his father's care she was reduced to living in squalor in her Park Avenue duplex.

"Her bedroom is so cold in the winter that my grandmother is forced to sleep in the TV room in torn nightgowns on a filthy couch that smells, probably from dog urine," Marshall said in a July 18 sworn statement included in the newly unsealed papers.

In response, Justice John Stackhouse ordered officials at J.P. Morgan Chase bank, her temporary guardians, to replace furniture in the apartment, "including the old couch" in the TV room, the court papers said. Astor, he added, should be bought "new nightgowns, new outfits, new underwear and new accessories."

The dispute over Astor's couch, clothing and healthcare was first publicized last month in a front-page story in the Daily News, before the judge granted the family's request to temporarily seal the court file.

Lawyers for the Associated Press, the Daily News, the New York Times and the New York Post challenged the sealing order, arguing the public had a legitimate interest in the well-being of a popular public figure such as Astor. This week, the judge agreed to release the court papers.

Details of Astor's failing health were blacked out to protect her privacy, but evidence of the bitter family feud were left intact.

In the documents, Philip Marshall claims his father "has enriched himself at the expense of my grandmother," pocketing nearly $2.4 million in 2005 to manage her affairs while penny-pinching on her basic needs.

He also alleges that Astor had not seen her prized pet dogs, Boysie and Girlsie, for six months because they were kept locked in a pantry. In his order, Stackhouse asked the bank to pay for a dog walker.

Marshall's father, Anthony Marshall, a Tony-winning Broadway producer who is Astor's son from a previous marriage, has vehemently denied mistreating her.

Astor's charitable efforts through the Vincent Astor Foundation, named for her husband, won her a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1998. She has been a leading society figure for decades.

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