Real Estate Billionaires Who Stand to Profit from Amazon HQ Move, NY

960x0.jpg

From left to right: Tom Elghanayan, Fred Elghanayan and Henry Elghanayan. CHESTER HIGGINS JR/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX

These New York Real Estate Billionaires Stand To Profit From Amazon’s HQ2

Amid the news about Amazon’s HQ2 announcement—the e-commerce giant chose New York’s Long Island City and northern Virginia’s Crystal City as the victors of its nationwide search—there’s the question of who in the real estate world is jumping for joy at the new opportunities. That likely includes a trio of low-profile billionaire brothers and real estate titan Jerry Speyer.

The Elghanayan family, which was worth more than $2 billion in 2015 when Forbes last estimated their fortune, traces their wealth back to Nourollah Elghanayan, an Iranian-native who started buying land in Manhattan in the 1950s and 1960s. His three sons, Tom, Fred and Henry, expanded the family business throughout Manhattan and Queens, acquiring and developing iconic buildings such as FBI’s former New York City headquarters and the Carnegie Hall Tower. In 2009, the family split up their holdings amid disagreements over succession plans. Henry reportedly won a coin toss and chose the Rockrose name and a portfolio of development sites and residential buildings; Tom and Fred took the rest, including more than 5,000 apartment units and properties in Long Island City, and rolled them into an entity called TF Cornerstone.

Since then, Tom and Fred Elghanayan have capitalized on New York’s up-and-coming neighborhoods, building gleaming luxury rental apartment towers in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen and in downtown Brooklyn. But it’s their bet in Long Island City that may prove to be the most prescient. In addition to two rental apartment towers the Elghanayans transferred to TF Cornerstone, the brothers have purchased or built four more rental buildings in the past six years, giving them over 3,000 rental units in Long Island City’s waterfront community of Queens West.

In July 2017, TF Cornerstone furthered its move into Long Island City, winning a proposal to redevelop two city-owned sites in Anable Basin, a waterfront district neighboring Queens West. Its winning bid calls for a 1.5 million square feet mixed-use project with 1,000 rental units, commercial, retail and light industrial spaces, and public park areas. Just months later, Plaxall—another family firm that manages over one million square feet of real estate—submitted plans to rezone nearly 15 acres of the Anable Basin into a mixed-use development spanning almost 6 million square feet.

Now the sketches of glass towers and open air parks have been fast tracked to reality as Amazon sets its sights on the Anable Basin. According to the Seattle company’s memorandum of understanding with New York, it has circled the Anable Basin area as its target site for HQ2. TF Cornerstone confirmed that it will partner with Amazon to build out its project. “As a family-owned company founded by Queens natives, TF Cornerstone is proud to welcome Amazon to Long Island City, bringing new jobs to the borough and preserving significant public benefits,” says Jake Elghanayan, a principal at TF Cornerstone and a son of Tom Elghanayan.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

With Amazon planning to take up 4 million square feet of office space over the next decade (and bringing on 25,000 workers), the Elghanayans are in prime position to take advantage of the increasing demand for office real estate and new apartments. With excitement already building in Long Island City, Tom and Fred’s fortune looks to be getting a boost in the near future.

But Henry Elghanayan, who runs his own firm Rockrose Development Corp., didn’t make out so badly either. The former lawyer, whose collection of development sites included several in Long Island City, erected his own luxury rentals near the One Court Square area, constructing nearly 2,500 units across three towers in the past six years. With another building due to open in 2019, and an older waterfront property that Henry received when the brothers split up, his Rockrose will be a major landlord in Long Island City with nearly 3,000 rental apartments.

Jerry Speyer, cofounder and chairman of Tishman Speyer.

Jerry Speyer, cofounder and chairman of Tishman Speyer.GETTY

Another big winner in Amazon’s decision is real estate firm Tishman Speyer’s billionaire chairman Jerry Speyer. Speyer started the real estate giant, which has developed over 167 million square feet of space from Chicago to Berlin, in 1978 with his father-in-law Robert Tishman. Son Rob Speyer is now CEO and oversees the company’s operations. While famous for redeveloping iconic skyscrapers like Manhattan’s Chrysler building and Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer has also become a major player in the transformation of Long Island City. The firm claims to be the area’s most prolific residential and office developer and says it will have completed construction on 3.7 million square feet in the neighborhood by end of next year.

A decade ago, the New York firm broke ground on Two Gotham Center, a 22-story office tower just a 20-minutes stroll from Anable Basin. Tishman Speyer sold the completed building to Canadian firm H&R REIT in 2011 but continued on, partnering with H&R and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund to develop two office and retail towers named the JACX, and three rental apartment towers named Jackson Park.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Advertisements

Real Estate Firms Buying Elections in New York

Can NY politicians fight Big Real Estate?

In the debate between Cynthia Nixon and Andrew Cuomo last month, the discussion briefly turned to the issue of homelessness. Cuomo touted his career-long dedication to housing, beginning with a nonprofit he founded in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Nixon blamed the state’s housing crisis, in part, on the governor’s close ties with the real estate industry.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we have one of the largest housing crises that we’ve ever seen in this state when the number one contributor to Andrew Cuomo is the real estate industry and corporate developers,” Nixon said.

In the lead up to Thursday’s primary, candidates for two crucial state offices — governor and attorney general — have taken aim at the real estate industry’s role in politics. Campaign contributions from the industry have loomed large in both races. For instance, Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout has refused donations from corporate developers, and Letitia James refunded a $10,000 campaign contribution from a controversial landlord. In the governor’s race, Nixon has criticized Cuomo’s top donors — which included more than $700,000 from real estate in the first half of 2018 — and called for dramatic housing reform, including universal rent control.

….

 

Money talks

The past three years have thrown the influence of real estate in politics into sharp relief with the conviction of two of the most powerful men in Albany. Earlier this year former State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos were both re-convicted on corruption charges. Both cases involved leveraging relationships with landlords and developers who, at the time, were lobbying the officials on issues important to the real estate industry, like the 421a tax break.

John Kaehny, executive director and a founding board member of good-government group Reinvent Albany, said given that the real estate industry was at the center of both scandals, there should be even more interest in how donations from real estate impacts elections. He said state elections are especially vulnerable because limited liability companies are treated as individuals rather than corporations. Until rules are reformed, real estate will continue to wield considerable sway over statewide elections, he said.

“This is really a basic matter of money versus people,” he said. “The LLC loophole and the fact that it essentially allows unlimited contributions, allows real estate executives to flex their muscles in extraordinary ways.”

LLCs have become a preferred vehicle for bypassing state campaign contribution rules, especially for real estate companies which often create LLCs for each new development. Under state law, individuals can donate up to $44,000 to candidates running for statewide office, while corporations are capped at $5,000. The state legislature has tried on at least three occasions to hold LLCs to the same restrictions as corporations.

“We’ve passed it in the assembly several times, and then, it goes nowhere,” said state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who has endorsed Nixon for governor. “It dies because it fails in the senate.”

As previously reported by The Real Deal, real estate donated more than $733,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign in the first half of 2018. His top donor during this timeframe was the Durst Organization, with $75,000 across four LLCs and James L. Nederlander of the Nederlander Organization with $65,000. Cuomo’s favored attorney general candidate, Public Advocate Letitia James, has raised over $280,000 from 80 real estate donors. But she’s also returned donations from certain landlords, including $10,000 from Joel Landau, whose firm Allure Group was at the center of the Rivington House scandal. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney raised at least $433,000 in real estate contributions through the end of August. Teachout has touted the fact that she doesn’t take money from corporate developers and on her campaign website calls for a ramp-up in investigations into illegal tenant harassment, tax fraud and money laundering. She has, however, received $21,000 from multifamily landlord Arthur Cornfeld and L+M Development Partners’ Ron Moelis.

“Why has New York City real estate been able to be so dirty and so cruel for so long? The answer is developer money,” Teachout said during a press conference last month, according to Politico.

Her stance did not go unnoticed by the industry. In late August, Related Companies paid $100,000 to a political action committee that quickly spent the funds on a digital campaign that targeted Teachout, according to a report by Politico.

“The real estate industry is not monolithic. Like journalism and politics, it is not all good, or all bad and not the source of all society’s ills, no matter who says so,” said the Durst Organization’s Jordan Barowitz. “Difficult problems are complicated to solve and require thoughtful collaboration, because of this, scapegoating inevitably solves nothing.”

All politics are local

Continue reading

Tish James and Her Donor Pool – 80,000 Reasons and Counting to Fear Her Election

Real estate and insurance firms tout AG candidate to Jewish voters

Businesses pour $80,000 into a PAC supporting Letitia James

A new business-backed political action committee hopes to convince religious Jews that supporting Letitia James for attorney general is a mitzvah.

A real estate company and an apparent health insurance firm have poured $80,000 into One Voice New York PAC, which has produced an online video ad and a print piece encouraging members of the politically potent bloc to back the city’s public advocate to be the state’s top law-enforcement official. James is among four candidates in Thursday’s Democratic primary.

One Voice New York registered with the state Board of Elections on Sept. 6, the same day that a Twitter account bearing the same name posted a highly charged video in support of James’ candidacy. The spot juxtaposes footage of anti-Semites at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., with a clip of President Donald Trump referring to “very fine people on both sides” at the event, which resulted in an activist’s death at the hands of a white nationalist. Further remarks by the president, disparaging immigrants, then play over a diverse montage of pained faces, followed by a recording of a man chanting “Jew-S-A” at a 2016 Trump rally.

The ad then cuts to a speech by James in which she vows to “represent the interests of marginalized communities,” superimposed over the Statue of Liberty, smiling children, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Manhattan skyline.

“In Trump’s America, bigots and racists are on the rise. In @TishJames’ New York, they are on the run!” the tweet read.

A source forwarded Crain’s a full-page ad funded by the PAC in Jewish Week. It repeats the tweet and adds, “On Sept. 13, New York Democrats will unite in one voice for Letitia (Tish) James for attorney general; a woman of firm conviction who fights bigotry and hatred wherever it is.”

The Board of Elections filings describe One Voice New York as an independent expenditure unaffiliated with James’ campaign. The disclosures also show that the PAC’s funding comes entirely from two sources. Ben 37 LLC, which state records and addresses indicate is an offshoot of the Queens-based Katz Realty Group, gave One Voice New York $20,000. The other $60,000 came from Diamond Health Associates, based out of 202 Caton Ave., Brooklyn.

Diamond shares this Kensington address with Allstate Administrators, Diamond HR Benefits LLC, Eagle Risk Management LLC, Eagle Risk Services LLC and at least one real estate entity, all of them—as indicated by documentation filed in both New York and Florida—linked to insurance claims adjuster Samuel Schlesinger and his partner, Malkie Mittelman.

Neither Katz Management nor anybody at 202 Caton Ave. responded to a request for comment.

The religious Jewish community often votes as a bloc, and its support has proved important in numerous local and state races. But this Thursday’s primary falls between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, leading several experts Crain’s consulted to predict that its turnout will be relatively low this year.

Cuomo and the state Democratic Party, which have endorsed James, apparently share this concern. The party last week sent a mailer to certain Jewish voters accusing the governor’s Democratic challenger, Cynthia Nixon, of anti-Semitism. The party—but not Cuomo—has since apologized for the literature, which provoked controversy on social media.

It’s not clear why a video portraying Trump in a negative light would resonate with the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which largely voted for Trump in 2016 instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator and secretary of state.

To keep reading click, here.

Marc Kasowitz and a Maelstrom over Collusion with Russia – The Leviev Connection and The old NY Times Building

2131

Trump’s Russia lawyer faces conflict-of-interest questions over $296m Kushner deal

The lawyer privately advising Donald Trump on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is head of a law firm that was involved in the sale of a prestigious piece of New York real estate to Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law, in a deal that could fall under the spotlight of the same inquiry.

Marc Kasowitz, a member of the New York bar who has represented Trump in his business dealings for 15 years, was brought on board by the president last month to provide personal legal advice relating to the Russian inquiry now being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The appointment has placed Kasowitz at the center of the legal maelstrom over the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and elements of Trump’s presidential campaign.

An investigation by the Guardian has found that Kasowitz’s law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, legally represented the owners of the former New York Times building in Times Square, Manhattan, in a 2015 deal in which part of the property was sold to Kushner for $296m.

The Washington Post has reported that a subsequent loan of $285m from Deutsche Bank to Kushner Companies, relating to the purchase of the building, could fall under the remit of the Mueller investigation given Deutsche Bank’s scandal-riven reputation. The involvement of Kasowitz’s firm as a key legal player in the initial sale adds a further possible twist as the special counsel’s inquiry gathers momentum.

Questions have already been raised about possible conflicts of interest between the lawyer’s role as Trump’s private attorney in the Russian inquiry and his work for various other clients, among them Russia’s largest bank OJSC Sberbank, which he represents in a corporate dispute lodged in US federal court.

The Guardian asked Kasowitz, via his spokesman, to respond to the potential conflict of interest relating to his firm’s role as attorney on the sale of the Times Square building to Kushner but he did not respond before publication. After publication, the spokesman send in a statement: “There are no conflicts under any standard or by any definition.”

Trump’s connections with Kasowitz’s law firm go much further than just his personal attorney, raising other potential conflict of interest issues. Another of its partners, David Friedman, was appointed by the president as ambassador to Israel; its senior counsel, Joe Lieberman, was considered by Trump as replacement director of the FBI after the president fired James Comey but pulled out of the running, citing potential conflicts of interest with Kasowitz as the president’s private legal counsel; and yet another partner, Edward McNally, is reportedly in the running to replace Preet Bharara as US attorney for the southern district of New York, following a similar Trump sacking.

ProPublica has alleged that Kasowitz himself bragged to friends that he played a role in having Bharara fired, by telling Trump: “This guy is going to get you.” One of the major investigations conducted by the southern district of New York under Bharara was allegedly to look into Deutsche Bank’s involvement in alleged Russian money-laundering.

The Guardian invited Kasowitz to confirm or deny the ProPublica account, but he did not respond.

The old New York Times building is a neo-gothic styled building fronting Times Square, which had been a home to printing presses since the first year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. Located at 229 West 43rd Street in Manhattan, the building was declared a New York City designated landmark in 2000.

At the time of the sale to Kushner, the building was owned by Lev Leviev, an Israeli citizen born in the former Soviet Union in what is now Uzbekistan. His company, Africa Israel Investments, bought the Times Square property in 2007 for $525m.

State records show that Africa Israel’s Delaware LLCs, including its subsidiary that bought the former New York Times building, are registered at 40 Wall Street, Trump’s property over the road from the New York Stock Exchange. The office block has “The Trump Building” emblazoned over its entrance in gold capital letters, and was also the home of the now defunct Trump University.

Leviev is one of Israel’s richest businessmen, having made a fortune partly in diamond mining in Africa. He has claimed that he is a “true friend” of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

In a statement to the Guardian, the Leviev Group of Companies said that Leviev had indeed met Putin a few times though only in his capacity as president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union). Leviev “does not have a personal relationship with the Russian premier” and the comment that he was a “true friend” referred to Putin’s help to the “Jewish community in Russia”.

Leviev’s company has had a number of contacts with the Trump family circle that go further than Kushner. Rich Marin, a former chairman and CEO of Africa Israel USA, has told the Guardian that he had a meeting with Trump himself as well as his daughter Ivanka about the possibility of creating a Trump hotel inside the Times Square property.

That deal never materialized, and it was several years later that Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, stepped into the breach. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show that the sale of the retail portion of 229 West 43rd Street to Kushner was made in an off-market transaction of the sort normally used by owners desiring a quick sale, where speed is more important than price.

Given the lack of competition inherent in such trades, they often give an advantage to the purchaser seeking to acquire property at a bargain.

Kushner acquired the building for $296m from Africa Israel USA and its partner in the deal Five Mile Capital, with Kasowitz’s law firm representing the sellers. The transaction included four storeys of retail space and two sub-basement floors.

The upper 12 floors of the old New York Times building, which are used for offices, were sold to Blackstone in 2011 for $160m. When both sales are put together, Leviev let go of the entire building after owning it for eight years and committing millions of dollars in renovations for a total price that was beneath the $525m he had originally paid for it.

The Guardian contacted Kushner Companies and Five Mile Capital about the sale, but neither commented.

In a statement to the Guardian, the Leviev Group of Companies said: “The Kushner Companies’ offer for the retail space was the most attractive offer ever submitted, and was higher than the building’s appraisal.”

Kushner sealed the refinancing deal with Deutsche Bank and SL Green over his half of the former New York Times building last October, in the dying days of the presidential campaign. The package, reported by Kushner’s own news magazine, Commercial Observer, amounted to $370m – $74m more than Kushner had paid for it.

The president of Kushner Companies, Laurent Morali, told the Washington Post that the discrepancy in price was a result of the “dramatic turnaround” that they had effected in filling up vacant rental units with high-profile outlets. “We had a vision for the property when we purchased it that no one else had, and are proud to say that we executed on it,” he said.

Deutsche Bank is the biggest lender to Trump, having provided $364m in loans. The German bank has been hit by a series of scandals including Russian money laundering, and was ordered earlier this year to pay more than $600m in fines for failing to prevent the secret and improper transfer of more than $10bn out of Russia.

The Guardian revealed in February that Deutsche Bank had itself conducted an investigation of Trump’s personal account to see whether there were any suspicious links to Russian entities.

Senior Democrats in Congress have raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest relating to the Trump administration and the president’s own financial debts to Deutsche Bank. In March, a group of Democrats on the House financial services committee wrote a joint letter saying that such links “raise serious concerns about whether the president and his inner circle will direct the Department [of Justice] to steer clear of issues that could implicate those who benefited from Deutsche Bank’s trading scheme.”

On Tuesday the Guardian reported that a different Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, had approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family and their businesses.

To read the article in its original format please click here.

 

 

The Kushner Chronicles – Litigious Slumlord Evicting Single Mothers – The Kamiia Warren Eviction – part II

bcpnews-trump-s-son-in-law-is-a-baltimore-slum-001

Tenants allege Trump’s son-in-law is a Baltimore “slumlord,” and that’s not even the worst of it

http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcpnews-trump-s-son-in-law-is-a-baltimore-slumlord-and-that-s-not-even-the-worst-of-it-20170523-story.html

Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, sues his Baltimore tenants for thousands of dollars in bogus debts, on which he also gets judgments allowing him to garnish their wages and drain their bank accounts.

This according to Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis, who reports in a story for this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that Kushner quietly bought-up thousands of modest and run-down apartment units in Essex and other Baltimore suburbs, whose tenants complain of poor maintenance, harsh rent collection techniques, and relentless pursuit of old and sometimes dubious debts generated after tenants moved out.

MacGillis leads off with Kamiia Warren, who moved out of Cove Village in Essex years ago to get away from a crazy neighbor. She had permission to do so from the apartment’s managers, yet Kushner’s company sued her years later for breaking the lease, winning more than $3,000 plus fees and expenses: almost $5,000 total by 2014.

At one point in the story, a private investigator looking into Westminster Management, Kusher’s property management company says, “they’re nothing but slumlords.” MacGillis notes the P.I. is a Trump supporter and had no idea of the connection between Trump’s son-in-law and Westminster.

MacGillis finds hundreds of cases, and the story profiles several other tenants with similar experiences. A spokesperson for Kushner’s company tells MacGillis that it owes a fiduciary duty to its investors to try to collect all outstanding debts. The story does not explain how or why it’s legal for the landlord to effectively generate the debts out of thin air, or why the District Court judges routinely uphold them. He tries to talk to Kushner’s collection lawyer, Jeffrey Tapper.

“In the cases that Tapper has brought to court on behalf of JK2 Westminster and individual Kushner-controlled companies, there is a clear pattern of Kushner Companies’ pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease—even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side,” MacGillis writes.

Tapper blows him off.

Aside from the presidential connection, the story reads much like Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella’s Baltimore Sun series a few weeks ago on Baltimore City’s rent court, where the deck is said to be stacked pretty high against tenants.


 http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcpnews-trump-s-son-in-law-is-a-baltimore-slumlord-and-that-s-not-even-the-worst-of-it-20170523-story.html

 

 

SEE ALSO:

Jared Kushner’s Beleaguered Tenants

The idea of working with little pay and no fanfare to make people’s struggles less onerous is a sucker’s game for Mr. Trump and his cohort. When members of Team Trump play, they are never the sucker. They exploit foreclosures, promote legislation to benefit themselves, stiff workers and contractors and create multimillion-dollar scams.

For the past few years, Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, who is now in charge of vital parts of the president’s agenda, has been a landlord of often decrepit low-income housing. His subordinates aggressively sue tenants for the smallest infractions despite ignoring maintenance needs, and they pursue judgments even when the tenant seems to have been in the right. While landlord-tenant disputes are hardly new, tenants in Kushner complexes have complained that the company used legal action to hound them on thin or specious grounds.

Since 2011, subsidiaries of Kushner Companies, the family real estate business Mr. Kushner ran until January, bought 20,000 apartments in 34 complexes in Maryland, Ohio and New Jersey. An investigation for The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, by Alec MacGillis, found that one major Kushner subsidiary, JK2 Westminster, had 548 cases on file against Maryland tenants. Hundreds of other cases have been filed there by individual Kushner apartment complexes.

Community organizers could have helped Kushner tenants like Kamiia Warren of suburban Baltimore, who was sued for moving out of her apartment without giving two months’ notice despite having done so. Mr. Kushner’s company won an almost $5,000 judgment anyway, and garnished her wages as a home health worker, and her bank account.

The Times investigation quotes the Kushner Companies’ chief financial officer, Jennifer McLean, as saying that the company has a “fiduciary obligation” to collect as much revenue as possible. Mr. MacGillis adds: “One way to make sure that tenants are paying their rent and to keep them from breaking leases early … is to instill a sense of fear about violating a lease.”

Tricky Government Contracts and the Kushner Empire – Ethicists Welcome News…

bayfront

 

https://therealdeal.com/2017/05/10/kushner-companies-scraps-planned-orthodox-jewish-community-in-jersey-city/

Kushner Companies scraps planned Orthodox Jewish community in Jersey City

Had it been granted the $150M bid, the company could have built 8,100 homes at formerly contaminated Bayfront site

UPDATED, May 10, 12:30 p.m.: Kushner Companies was the leading bidder on an industrial site called Bayfront in Jersey City that would become home to a planned Jewish community geared toward members of Orthodox sects who are being priced out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

But when Bloomberg reporters asked company spokesperson James Yolles about the bid on Tuesday, Yolles said that the company already dropped any intentions it had to buy the site from Honeywell and Jersey City for $150 million. An unnamed Kushner employee also told the news site that these plans were dropped late last year, but the office of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said it was unaware of this and has yet to receive any word of Kushner’s withdrawal from consideration.

It’s unclear if the Kushners decided to abandon the project for ethics reasons, but Honeywell, a Fortune 100 list conglomerate, has billions in government contracts that could prove tricky in any dealmaking tied to the Kushners. The development would likely also require federal subsidies to improve the infrastructure within and surrounding the site. “It’s a good sign that they are pulling out,” Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, told Bloomberg. “Though the question is whether or not it’s just because of the publicity or because they actually see there is a potential conflict of interest in these situations.”

In a statement to The Real Deal, Yolles said “a decision was made late last year not to pursue the project because the company was not persuaded by the economics of the deal.”

Last weekend, the company made front page news when White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole promoted a Jersey City project at One Journal Square to Chinese investors. The sales pitch made mention of Kushner Companies’ ties to the White House and Nicole told the audience the project was “important” to her entire family. It was later reported that the project in question is going through a rough spot, losing an anchor tenant in WeWork and at risk of losing a key 30-year tax abatement.  [Bloomberg]  — Will Parker

 

To read the article in TheRealDeal click here.

 

See Also:

National Real Estate Investor: http://www.nreionline.com/investment/kushners-abandon-property-bid-pressures-mount-over-conflicts

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.