Bill Cornwell and Tom Doyle lived in a brownstone in the West Village for over five decades. They were artists, neighborhood fixtures and committed partners. Their enduring love never seemed to them to need codification — not to mention that for most of their relationship, gay marriage was illegal.
Mr. Cornwell died two years ago at age 88. Now, his will, in which he bequeathed the small apartment building to Mr. Doyle, is in dispute, leaving his partner with no clear claim to his home of 55 years. The property, on Horatio Street, is an extremely valuable asset, and several of Mr. Cornwell’s nieces and nephews have claimed it as their inheritance, rejecting the notion that their uncle wanted it to go to Mr. Doyle. They put the building up for sale, and it is now under contract — for over $7 million.