Erskin Felix Sentenced in Murder of Stark, Maintains His Innocence

OPINION – LM

Erskin Felix Claims he is Innocent and We Think He May Very Have Been Wrongly Convicted

Erskin Felix has maintained his innocence since day one. He said he did not kill Stark. He had the opportunity to plea a deal which he did not take, knowing that were he to be convicted, he would not get off lightly. He has continuously stated that he would not have killed Stark.

We have believed, all along. There were more than a fair share of people who had to gain by Stark’s tragic death.  Menachem Stark was involved with business and real estate partners for whom his death was a payday with a windfall outcome. Many of Stark’s properties have wound up in the hands of those very partners who have since sold them onward and made substantially lucrative deals.

There are things about the case that never made sense. The Van did not initially show signs of Stark or DNA. It was not captured on all of the videos that should have captured it had events been as depicted. A second pass over the van lead to finding DNA; and while the inconsistencies with the evidence have resulted in a partial conviction on evidence tampering, we don’t believe any of it. If the evidence was tampered with, it was not by Felix.

It took hours before the police were called in. Instead, the Shomrim were initially called and they reviewed everything first. The lack of transparency within Shomrim as a general matter leads one to question the actions they took after the initial determination that Stark was missing.

We received information that shortly after his death there were changes to LLC boxes at 199 Lee Avenue, where many of Stark’s properties were registered and where many of his property managers had “suites” (more accurately PO Boxes) including new addresses for some of these managers and companies.

We received information from Stark’s tenants who claimed that there were some very shady dealings; many included coercing them to  to sign documents that they later realized dismantled their rights to their homes, just days after the disappearance but before it was widely known the circumstances of Stark’s death or even that Stark was indeed dead. 

Moreover, while there was supposedly a kidnapping for ransom behind the Stark murder, no official information has ever been disseminated regarding the nature of the ransom except an alleged $20,000 payment. However, Felix had always claimed that this was not true. Why would three men from St. Lucia be involved in anything like this for $20,000? It just makes no sense.

We speculate that the other two “conspirators” were paid handsomely to accept a deal, spend time in prison and come out to find some form of compensation for their troubles waiting. It gives us a few years to figure it all out.

In the meantime, we wish our condolences to the Stark family. The death was tragic and unnecessary and right or wrong in our theories, he should not have died for money or for any other reason. 

We sincerely hope there are others out there who see this as we do. Erskin Felix is, in our opinion, innocent. We hope someone, if not us, manages to figure it all out.

Erskin Felix Sentenced to 24 Years to Life for Murder and Kidnapping of Menachem Stark

BROOKLYN

Erskin Felix, convicted of the murder and kidnapping of Menachem Stark, was sentenced Thursday to 24 years to life in prison. Five years and five months after Stark’s death, all four men accused of involvement in the crime have now been convicted or pleaded guilty, and sentenced.

In a victim impact statement prior to the sentencing, Mrs. Bashie Stark described the pain her family has experienced since her husband’s death.

“It was Erskin Felix who planned and executed this cruel attack, and it is he who’s responsible for the trauma that my family is suffering to this day and will suffer for the rest of our lives,” said Mrs. Stark, who remained composed throughout the statement. “With the murder of this sweet and gentle man, my loss is huge and my children too are going through life missing that love and security that their devoted father had always provided.”

“Menachem and I always imagined growing old together and watching our children reach adulthood. But in the years that have passed, two of my children got married and Menachem wasn’t there with us. Two grandchildren were born, and Menachem never got to meet them. To hold them. To bounce them on his knee. They will never know his love. My little ones barely remember their father, the man that loved them more than life itself.”

Stark was kidnapped by two men on the night of January 2, 2014, outside his Williamsburg office, and forced into the men’s minivan, in a scene captured on surveillance footage. His body was found in Long Island the next day.

A jury deliberated for less than five hours before convicting Felix, 40, in April, of second-degree murder, first degree kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. He was acquitted of another first-degree kidnapping charge and a conspiracy charge.

Felix is believed to have masterminded a plan to kidnap Stark and hold him for ransom, claiming Stark owed him money. Felix managed construction sites on properties owned by Stark, a real-estate developer. Stark was friendly with Felix, according to testimony by Mrs. Stark, and had also hired Felix to do contracting work on his home some years earlier.

According to testimony by Erskin’s cousin Kendel Felix, Erskin and Kendel carried out the kidnapping, then drove to the home of Erskin’s brother Kendall Felix and picked him up, and then picked up another cousin, Irvine Henry. The plan went awry when the group suddenly realized that Menachem was no longer breathing; Erskin had unintentionally suffocated Menachem, who was already bound and gagged, when he had kneeled on Menachem’s chest.

Erskin and Irvine left the vehicle and returned to the area of Menachem’s office – likely to retrieve a tracking device Erskin had placed under Menachem’s vehicle weeks earlier – but, fearing being seen, went home. Meanwhile, Kendall and Kendel drove the minivan with Menachem’s body to Long Island, where they put him in a dumpster and burned him.

Kendel was convicted in September 2016 of felony murder and kidnapping. The other three were arrested shortly thereafter, and Kendel then reached a deal to cooperate with against Erskin for a reduced sentence.

Kendel was sentenced in May to the minimum of 15 years to life.

To continue reading click here.

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

Man convicted in kidnapping, murder of Menachem Stark gets 15 years

‘Mastermind’ of 2014 kidnapping and murder sentenced to 24 years to life in prison

 

 

The Menachem Stark Murder, Kendall Felix, A Railroaded Employee Righted by Sentence

The Menachem Stark Murder and Our Take on Events… a Business Transaction that Did not Involve Kendall Felix

March 27, 2019, Edited 3.28.19 (We have updated the story. The writing was unclear insofar as Kendall Felix was only convicted of burning the body and not he murder itself).

Dear Readers:

To Menachem Stark’s (z”l) family, we offer our sincerest condolences. The death of your family member was tragic, gruesome and quite disturbing. It cannot have been easy. There is little that can be said to offer much more than wishes for peace.

We do not feel the right man has been convicted.

We have long believed that Kendall Felix could not have dumped and burned Menachem Stark in 2014 and we do not believe the Kendel Felix murdered him. Kendall Felix and the members of his family involved most certainly could not have been masterminded the plan. The person, business or family that was involved was far more sinister, far more clever and had something to gain by the death of Stark.

We believe and have always contended that the Stark murder was a simple business endeavor. It left former partners with significant high value property and financial benefit. Those are the people to whom law enforcement should have looked and who should have been held to account for his death, not a St. Lucian employee and his family members. This was not a death over $20,000.00. It was a murder over millions. 

We contend that there was a massive cover-up. Even the reactions to events are inconsistent.

We maintain that the wrong man admitted to or is being tried for the murder and his family members were innocently charged with the larger conspiracy, either coerced or bribed into a false admission; and is or are now going to serve a sentence for the death of a man they did not kill. We have always maintained that there is far more to this story.  We are relieved, however, that Judge Danny Chun got it very right. We hope that Judge Chun’s decision is not just another piece; but rather that he knows Kendall Felix was a victim.  

Kendel Felix worked for Stark and in several interviews stated that Stark treated him well, was kind and was generous to him. While Stark had many enemies, it is rumored that he held loyal employees in high regard. His tenants had both good and bad to say about him; but Felix did not waiver in his expression of respect for his former employer. Kendel Felix did not kill him and we do not believe that Kendall Felix does what he has been charged with either. And, most certainly the Felix family, we do not believe, had anything to do with masterminding whatever plot there was that went drastically wrong.

Sources have told us over the years that there was some time before the civil police department was called in after Stark went missing. The Shomrim were called in first and hours went by. We have been advised that the whereabouts of the white van and CCTV cameras along the route allegedly taken during the alleged kidnapping do not correspond to the story as enacted. We have further been advised that the DNA evidence is also questionable because the first pass of the van revealed nothing and it was not until months later that DNA was found, indicating that it may have been planted to create a chain of events that might make sense. We have accounts of a very different story.

But, there is no denying that at least some of Stark’s former partners profited from his death, the result of business agreements whereby they took ownership of the properties still owned by Stark’s companies.  There is no brokering that there is property in Monsey, New York that has changed ownership in some questionable ways since Stark’s death, again the result of business relationships Stark had. There may have been answers at 199 Lee Avenue.

While we hope one day to put the pieces together in their inglorious detail, it is something of a relief to know that Kendall Felix, who we do not believe had anything to do with the death of Menachem Stark, will not spent the rest of his life behind bars. We hope perhaps one day Stark’s family will want to know what really happened as much as we do.

LM

 

Kendall Felix, who pleaded guilty to second degree conspiracy and first degree hindering prosecution, was sentenced to a minimum of two years and four months to a maximum of seven years Wednesday. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

Menachem Stark was kidnapped, murdered and burned. The man who set the fire could serve less than three years.

 

“Cruel beyond words:” Victim’s family outraged at lenient sentencing

Family members of a kidnapped and killed Brooklyn landlord whose body was found charred in a Long Island dumpster railed against what they said was too lenient a sentence for the man who bought the gasoline and burned the body.

Kendall Felix, who pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy and first-degree hindering prosecution, was sentenced to a minimum of two years and four months to a maximum of seven years on Wednesday.

“I feel that it’s way too little. The man ruined a living family’s life. No one asked him to burn the body. Cruel beyond words. I believe he deserves a lot more,” said Yenti Hershkovitz, the sister-in-law of Menachem Stark, whose murder rocked the Williamsburg Hasidic community in 2014.

Judge Danny Chun cited the defendant’s age and college degree at the time of the killing for the lenient sentence.

“I was also convinced that this defendant was not the mastermind for many, many reasons. This defendant is not the mastermind behind the planning to kidnap Mr. Stark in this case,” Chun said.

Stark was 39 and had seven children at the time of his death. The New York Postnotoriously ran a outrage-sparking cover just after his death that read, “Who Didn’t Want Him Dead?”, chronicling the victim’s debts and enemies.

To continue reading click here.

 

The Stark Murder -There is Far TOO Much That Makes No Legitimate Sense – Properties and Partners…

menachem-stark-kendel-felix

Kendall Felix Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy in Menachem Stark Murder

BROOKLYN –

An alleged co-conspirator in the Menachem Stark, Hy”d, murder case has pleaded guilty.

Kendall Felix pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy in the second degree and will be sentenced March 27 to between 2-1/3 and seven years in prison.

His brother Erskin Felix, has been charged with murder in the case; jury selection in his trial is expected to begin Monday. Their cousin Kendel Felix was found guilty in September 2016 of second-degree murder and kidnapping. Kendel has not yet been sentenced, as it is believed that he has been cooperating with the prosecution in the case against his cousins.

A fourth man, Irvine Henry, facing charges of conspiracy, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence, is also believed to be cooperating with prosecutors.

Stark, a real-estate developer, was kidnapped and killed in January 2014. In a confession by Kendel Felix played during his trial, Kendel said he was approached by Erskin, who asked for Kendel’s help in kidnapping Stark – whom both worked for – and forcing him to pay money Erskin said Stark owed him.

According to Kendel’s confession, he drove the minivan, while Erskin held down Stark in the back. They drove to the home of Henry; upon arriving, they realized Stark was no longer breathing.

It is believed that Erskin accidentally suffocated Stark while either sitting on him or covering his face.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Menahem Stark, Messages from the Grave – Shomrim and the Kidnapping… from the Rechnitz Files

Jona Rechnitz and Bill de Blasio

Undisclosed de Blasio emails show cozy relationship with corrupt donor

 

City Hall withheld nearly two dozen e-mails that show Mayor de Blasio had a much cozier relationship with Jona Rechnitz than he has admitted — even telling the crooked developer to reach out “anytime I can help,” The Post has learned.

De Blasio was corresponding with Rechnitz for more than two years, from late in his first campaign in October 2013 through February 2016, despite the mayor’s April 2016 claim that he and the admitted briber were “not particularly close,” the previously undisclosed e-mails show.

“Jona, really enjoyed our mtg,” de Blasio wrote on Oct. 4, 2013, following receipt of $36,700 in cash Rech­nitz had collected for him. “Call upon me anytime I can help. And thanks for your extraordinary assistance for my cause — means a lot to me.”

Other e-mails obtained by The Post show de Blasio calling Rechnitz “my friend,” “brother” and “a mensch” — Yiddish for “a person of integrity and honor.” One even reveals that he told Rechnitz to keep their communications discreet.

“And always stay in touch, but please do via this email or via cell rather than text,” de Blasio wrote from his personal e-mail account — deblasio@att.blackberry.net — on Oct. 2, 2014. “Much easier for me. Thanks again for all your help.”

The correspondences also reveal the usually thin-skinned mayor graciously accepting an apology from Rechnitz for an unexplained slight, writing, “No worries” during an exchange of e-mails on Dec. 3, 2013.

And when Rechnitz, now 36, wrote, “Thnx I only mean well and am young and learning,” de Blasio, 57, wrote back two minutes later, taking a fatherly tone as he said, “We are all learning . . .”

The 21 e-mails written by de Blasio were not produced by City Hall in response to a 2016 Freedom of Information Law request by The Post, even though officials turned over 286 pages of correspondence involving de Blasio, Rechnitz and Reichberg during 2014.

The newly discovered e-mails between de Blasio and Rechnitz also add to others that prosecutors unveiled last month in Manhattan federal court, where they were introduced as evidence against Reichberg and former NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant.

But the copies obtained by The Post this week include exchanges that were redacted in court papers, with some e-mails showing how de Blasio praised Rechnitz for advising him to attend an anti-crime CompStat meeting at NYPD Headquarters and later thanking him for the suggestion.

Another newly obtained e-mail shows de Blasio thanking Rechnitz for tipping him off that the private Jewish Shomrim security patrol knew about the 2014 kidnapping and slaying of Menachem “Max” Stark two hours before the NYPD did.

“That’s a real issue. Thanks for raising it,” de Blasio wrote on Jan. 4, 2014.

Records released by City Hall also show that de Blasio forwarded Rechnitz’s e-mail to then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and other officials.

The California Bank Backing Hasidic Developers…. AND 199 LEE AVENUE

Screen-Shot-2016-08-22-at-10_50_45-AM

199 LEE AVENUE, GLOBAL PROPERTY ASSET MANAGEMENT, SECTION 8 HOUSING, 421A TAX ABATEMENTS, LIQUIDITY AND THE TAGWORDS FOR THE  MONEY THAT FINANCES HASIDIC DEVELOPERS

199 Lee Avenue is really little more than a building with thousands of PO Boxes. Most of the PO Boxes represents another company. Most if not all of which are Hasidic owned and some of which are the actual registered addresses for assorted companies which may or may not be real companies.

In fact, 199 Lee Avenue was also tied to the late Menachem Stark and properties that he owned.

We think it no coincidence, however, that in 2016 there was an investigation into the PO Boxes and some of the connected LLC’s; an investigation that appeared to end with Kushner and the White House, though the article below suggests that to credit Kushner in the White House is a stretch. Perhaps.

We will say this. It is not the first time 199 Lee Avenue has been on our radar and will likely not be the last. But rather than try and tell you to entire story again, we have highlighted the relevant passages of the articles below in Red. That should tell it all.

We believe that the authorities, Federal and State Tax authorities, the SEC (think REIT’s) and the FBI should still be paying attention, not only to 199 Lee but to a number of connected addresses, some of which are listed below. Please pay attention to the below wherein it states that the Hasidic communities are some of the largest recipients of Section 8 Housing. We also presume that Medicare and Medicaid go hand-in-hand with that, a logical conclusion. But if you take a look at he numbers, particularly as they stand today, it simply does not make logical or reasonable sense. 

 

It’s 1999. AOL is how most people receive email, and computers everywhere could soon succumb to the Millenium bug. It’s also the year when a new lender emerges and quickly gains a reputation for catering to wealthy clients with “complicated” personal finances. Its name? Bank of Internet.

Flash forward to 2018. The bank has rebranded to BofI Federal, emerged unscathed from a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and has made a major bet on a niche corner of New York commercial real estate — backing projects from some of Brooklyn’s most prolific Orthodox Jewish developers. It does this mostly by acquiring senior notes on loans originated by other funds.

Lately, the bank has been in the headlines for a pair of real estate loans tied to Kushner Companies, as ProPublica reported. At Toby Moskovits’ Bushwick office redevelopment at 215 Moore Street, BofI refinanced the last-known Brooklyn development loan held by Kushner Credit Opportunities Fund, a debt vehicle Kushner Companies founded in 2016. At One Journal Square in Jersey City, BofI put up funds to finance Fortress Investment Group’s $57 million bridge loan to Kushner Companies. That two-tower project has been plagued by problems, both political and financial, and it’s unclear if the company will be able to see it through.

In an interview with The Real Deal, Gregory Garrabrants, BofI’s CEO, said it was misleading to draw any connection between his firm’s business with Kushner Companies and the fact that the SEC investigation was dropped.

“There’s a political agenda behind talking about Kushner,” Garrabrants said. “I don’t know Mr. Kushner, but I don’t have to because we know Fortress.”

Deep Brooklyn

Though BofI, a San Diego-based company with $8.9 billion in assets, has long been active in single-family lending in New York, it only recently got into commercial real estate. Sources said it started to appear as a financing option in “warehouse lending,” in which a bank issues a loan to a warehouse owner and funds that loan with debt from a secondary lender, such as BofI. Essentially, it’s a way for lenders to issue loans without having to use their own money. This type of deal is often referred to as loan hypothecation, in which the original loan is the collateral for the debt a lender seeks from a bank.

“It’s more of a West Coast thing,” said David Eyzenberg, a debt broker, on the hypothecation structure. “Where we really got to know [BofI] was in providing leverage to hard-money lenders.”

The bank’s services have been especially appealing to developers in Brooklyn, specifically the middle-market investors and luxury rental builders hailing from the borough’s ultra-Orthodox communities, according to an analysis of property records by TRD. The analysis found that of Bofl’s 10 largest loans backed by real estate in the last three years, eight were tied to assets owned by Brooklyn developers, including a number from Williamsburg’s Hasidic community.

Hasidic developers commonly prefer to finance in smaller loan increments over several stages, allowing them to revise design plans or recapitalize with additional partners and then restructure the financing, sources said. The approach stands in contrast with Manhattan’s development giants, which traditionally shoot for a large institutional loan up-front.

Charles Kushner, Toby Moskovits, 215 Moore Street and 61 Adams Street

“There is a certain type of sponsor turning to this bank for land and development deals, which have a higher cost of capital and are harder to finance,” said an investor familiar with the bank who requested anonymity. “And so the bank has largely been serving as a bridge lender to the same players.”

The list includes prominent Hasidic builders such as Simon Dushinsky’s Rabsky Group, Abraham Leser’s Leser Group, Cheskie Weisz’s CW Realty and Zelig Weiss’ Riverside Developers. Public records show Dushinsky has the most debt on BofI’s books, with more than $80 million spread across three loans.

The model means BofI has little to no interaction with the sponsors themselves. Scott Barone, whose firm Barone Management secured $15.8 million from BofI via Emerald Creek Capital in 2016, said he “never had any actual dealings with them.”

Sources identified Sal Salzillo as one of the main point people leading lender financings on development deals for BofI in New York. However, Salzillo left in March for Sandhills Bank, a South Carolina-based bank owned by the Kalikow real estate family. He could not be reached for comment.

Garrabrants wouldn’t reveal the names of his New York real estate team members and said the firm does not target any specific community for its business.

“There’s no specific marketing or any kind of specific targeting of any particular group of borrowers,” he said.

The wide web

In 2016, the SEC started hitting the bank with subpoenas, after a whistleblower filed a lawsuit in 2015 alleging the bank might have been lending illegally to certain foreign nationals  in possible violation of federal money laundering laws. The suit also alleged the bank failed to fully disclose certain loan practices to regulators. The SEC dropped its investigation in June 2017 without taking any legal action. Garrabrants attributed the lawsuit and subsequent inquiries to the machinations of angry short sellers who watched the bank’s stock continue to climb. In a January 2017 earnings call, he called the allegations “fake news.”

But some have questioned whether the SEC dropping its investigation and the bank’s lending to a major Kushner Companies development project is too much of a coincidence. Jared Kushner joined the White House last January as a senior adviser, and although he has resigned from company positions, he still retains ownership in much of the company portfolio. Garrabrants dismissed these questions as part of a “tin-hat conspiracy” and said the SEC cleared the investigation months before it began talks with Fortress — Kushner’s lender at One Journal Square — about acquiring the senior interest in the loan.

Kushner Companies has faced a series of challenges at the project and it appears unlikely that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat, will grant the company building permits or tax abatements, though he denies it has anything to do with opposition to the Trump administration. Garrabrants was critical of Fulop, but said BofI will make money in the deal regardless. If Kushner Companies can’t build it or if it defaults, someone else will get the project done, he said.

“With respect to any kind of hurdles that arise as a result of any kind of issues related to some of the things that I’m sure people who are motivated in certain in manners put in place,” Garrabrants said in a statement apparently directed at Fulop, “hurdles in respect to [Kushner] in particular, and essentially punish him for his political affiliation, those are more difficult.”

However, he continued, “If we ended up with an ownership interest. … There will be people lining up to make sure that we don’t lose money on that project.

 

THE REAL DEAL ARTICLE TO FOLLOW:

Continue reading

“Reputed Landlord” v. “Pillar of the Community” – The Night Menachem Stark Died…

 

menachem-stark-kendel-felix

Menachem Stark’s wife recalls night he “never came home”

http://therealdeal.com/2016/09/09/wife-of-slain-hasidic-landlord-remembers-the-night-he-never-came-home/

The night Menachem Stark died, he should have been at a wedding, his wife told a Brooklyn court.

Vashi Stark testified Wednesday about the night her husband was killed in an attempted shakedown, during the trial against his alleged killer, construction worker Kendel Felix. “I was expecting him to be home by 11,” the widow told the jury, according to the New York Post, “or 11:30 at the latest.”

By then, Stark, the now-infamous developer and landlord, had already been abducted outside his Williamsburg office, bound and stuffed into a Dodge Caravan, and suffocated. His body was later found, partially-burned, in a dumpster in Great Neck.

The court viewed footage of that grisly scene, filmed by then-NYPD detective Bruce Schurman. Members of Stark’s family cried as the footage played and some got up to leave, the New York Post reported.

Felix, who confessed to the murder and implicated two accomplices, had worked construction on Stark’s properties, and may have worked for a contractor to whom Stark owed $20,000. Felix told police the abduction had been an attempt to “scare” the businessman and his death was an accident.

Stark, a member of the Satmar community, got in early in the Williamsburg gentrification-driven real-estate boom. He had at one point amassed a portfolio of about 1,000 units in the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area, together with his partner Israel Perlmutter, but ran into financial trouble after the 2008 crash, according to The Real Deal. He was millions of dollars in debt and embroiled in a number of financial and legal disputes at the time of his death.

Continue reading here.

Coincidence? Or, are they at it Again… Mr. Stark? – NO CofO!!

16090810LexingtonCourtyard.jpg

The Gothamist:

New Brooklyn Luxury Building Welcomes Tenants Despite Lacking Certificate Of Occupancy

http://gothamist.com/2016/09/08/rent_with_an_option_to_bye.php

Joseph Brunner, described by The Real Deal along with his partner Abe Mandel as one of the “heavyweights” of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish developers, with more than 100 buildings to his name (well, LLCs), bought the former Colonial Laundry building for $6.175 million in 2012.

The process of demolishing the factory and building the sleek residential building in its place was fraught with problems. Neighbors have complained to the city about construction 22 times since January 2015, and a contractor has paid out $12,400 for 12 serious building violations in that time. Infractions included working in hours outside of those allowed by permits, failing to enclose the construction site, failing to safeguard personnel, and failing to notify the DOB that excavation was beginning.

A neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said, “They’ve been such assholes every step of the way. It’s the shoddiest job I’ve ever seen.”

She complained that crews frequently worked late into the night and on weekends, and left debris on the sidewalk. During the final phase of construction, when workers were lining the facade with Styrofoam, her garden filled with balls of the stuff, “And I was picking it out of my five-month-old daughter’s hair.”

The neighbor added that a man from management once confronted her and, intimating that he knew she was calling 311, said, “Why do you care? Your street is already so dirty.” Later, she says he added, “I can deal with a lot of fines.”

The tenants we spoke to all shared stories that, though they diverged in some respects, were consistent on several key points. Specifically, they said that the leasing agents, operating out of an office marked “Bedford Lofts” at 105 Leonard Street in South Williamsburg, refused to give them copies of their leases (“Oh shit, I think we may not have gotten a copy,” one said when told about the others’ stories. His roommates confirmed it.); that management promised the building would be finished by September 1st; and when it wasn’t, that management offered them amounts ranging from $100 to $140 a night to stay in hotels until the inspectors sign off. No one we spoke to has been reimbursed yet.

Several tenants are also awaiting the construction of new walls in their apartments, to partition off an extra bedroom (a text message exchange between an agent and a tenant seems to confirm this arrangement). They say they have been told that the work will be done after inspectors come through and sign off on the building. Such new construction would, of course, only be legal with the applicable permits.

A man named George who answered at a number listed for a brokerage representing the building called Yuri Management told me there is an available “one bedroom-two bedroom flex. It comes as a one-bedroom, but could be flexed as a two-bedroom, meaning they could come in and cut out some of the cabin space.”

Asked why people are saying that there is no certificate of occupancy, George said, “What happened was, during the inspection, they didn’t get one of the signatures.” He said the move-in date has been delayed to September 15th. But three tenants told me that Mittelman, the property manager, informed them this week that the building has passed inspections and is okay to move into.

The tenants whose situations we reviewed—a mix of financiers, social services professionals, and students at nearby Pratt Institute—are stressed. One trio of students is staying with friends and hoping to pocket the money. They are angry about the alleged bait-and-switch, but question how much more they can do to hold Brunner accountable. “We’re all so busy with school already, and it’s so hard just getting ahold of management,” one said. “And besides, we don’t have our lease. Nothing is in writing.”

My guide around the building said the experience for him has been “Actually kind of fun,” given that he works in Downtown Brooklyn and has been sampling the neighborhood’s hotel offerings with his girlfriend. For his roommates, who have more far-flung professional jobs, “It’s definitely more disruptive.”

Another tenant is planning to withhold rent—all incoming tenants we spoke to got September “free”—and consulting lawyers.

The moving in of tenants to an un-permitted luxury development is eerily similar to the case of 120 South Fourth Street, which remains evacuated nearly a year after building inspectors forced residents out when inspectors conducting an audit—the department had previously signed off on the building—discovered 3,000 square feet of structural framing and concrete floor had been built without permits. That building is owned by Abraham Bernat, the brother-in-law of slain Williamsburg landlord Menachem Stark, and a principal of the firm The Bedford Lofts LLC.

It’s not clear that there is a connection, but when the tenant who is considering lawyering up first heard that 10 Lexington lacked a C of O and started to do some research, he encountered a story about Bernat’s foibles and realized his leasing agent was working for a company by a similar name. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, no, not this guy,'” he said.

The tenant recalled having asked repeatedly for a copy of the lease, but being told by the agents that the owner needed to add a few provisions to the generic lease and would mail him a copy.

“In retrospect, I was probably a little too trusting,” he said. A text exchange seems to verify that he requested a copy of the lease and was told to wait by a leasing agent.

As for the predicament he’s now in, the tenant said, “It’s ridiculous. All of these people have nowhere to stay.”

The Buildings Department spokesman said it audited Brunner’s permits during construction and forced the builders to change certain things to comply with the building code. Now, the spokesman said, the agency is planning to send inspectors once more.

Joel Mittelman, the building manager, did not respond to an email seeking comment or a message left at his Google Voice number. Another number listed for him on a permit application rang to a voicemail that is not set up. The number of a lawyer for Joshua Brunner listed on the purchasing records for 10 Lexington has been disconnected. Abraham Bernat did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Update 4:45 p.m.:

An unnamed representative of the building—it’s not clear if the person works for Bruman Realty, Bedford Lofts, or some other company—sent the following statement from a 10lexington.com email address:

As the leasing office we started signing leases in July with the understanding that our inspections for the certificate of occupancy would be complete in Mid-August. As such, the lease start dates were listed for September. The building did not receive the certificate of occupancy sign off yet as expected even though the building does have all other signoffs needed.

Landlord intends to fully comply with the term of all the leases. No tenant has received permission to occupy space in the building, However, landlord did allow as an accommodation for certain tenants that wanted to store their furniture and personal effects into the building for storage purposes only during the pendency of any ministerial delay.
Further more the Landlord has offered to pay the cost of hotels to every tenant that was not able to move in to his apartment to reduce any inconvenience on the new tenants side.

In terms of accessory spaces, it is correct that the roof deck is not yet built. It will be constructed in the coming months. With regard to the courtyard, since most tenants did not rent parking space it is the intention of the owners to make an application to BSA for a waiver of the parking requirements to include a courtyard area in the existing structure, since there is already enough parking spaces in the basement.