Inspectors Accepting Bribes to Speed up Developments, Shocking? Nope.

The Daily News

Fourteen people charged with bribing inspectors to speed up Brooklyn development projects

With new buildings popping up across Brooklyn, some corrupt property owners put a pair of city inspectors on retainer to avoid code violations, the Department of Investigation charged Wednesday.

The two Department of Buildings inspectors were among 14 individuals hit with charges in the latest crackdown on the resilient corruption that’s plagued the building sector in this city for decades.

The two inspectors were paid off by property owners and contractors to overlook code violations such as inoperable exit signs on residential and commercial buildings going up across Brooklyn, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said.

“Fabricating documents, lying about conducting inspections or about who is doing the work has serious consequences,” said Peters. “For the defendants it’s about expediting the construction timeline. It’s about making an extra buck.”

Financier gets probation for bribing state pension official

In all, 10 property owners, developers and contractors were charged in the scheme, along with a private sector asbestos inspector who took fees to fudge inspections and a master plumber who sold the use of his license.

Thirteen of the 14 were arrested in a pre-dawn sweep. All will be prosecuted by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and were to be presented in court later Wednesday.

The two city inspectors were paid off with cash but also got free kitchen renovations and driveway upgrades to their private homes, the complaints allege.

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Creative Map-Making and EB-5 Funds…. How Grants to Help the Poor are Making Jared Kushner Richer(er)

http://longisland.news12.com/story/35560404/kushners-used-creative-mapmaking-to-gain-visa-tied-funds

Creative Kushner mapping underscores holes in visa program

NEW YORK (AP) – The Kushner Cos. engaged in a bit of creative mapmaking to qualify one of its buildings in a booming New Jersey waterfront neighborhood across from Manhattan for a federal visa-for-investment program targeting struggling areas.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner placed its 65 Bay Street building in Jersey City in a map stringing together two dozen other areas, some with high unemployment.

The map was included in a 2015 application to the EB-5 visa program that allows overseas investors to obtain U.S. residency in exchange for investments of $500,000 or more in rural areas or those with high unemployment.

The maps are legal, and many other developers engage in the practice. But the practice is one of the reasons the EB-5 visa program has come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

James Yolles, a spokesman for the Kushner Cos., declined to comment. The Kushner property is co-owned with developer KABR Group. KABR has not responded to voicemail and email requests for comment.

The special maps were reported earlier by The Washington Post.

The building at 65 Bay Street has licensed the Trump name from the president’s company, and is better known as “Trump Bay Street.” It received millions from wealthy overseas investors through the EB-5 program.

The Kushner Cos. was recently pitching to potential EB-5 investors in China for another Jersey City property. Called One Journal Square, it is a planned 79-story two tower complex in a struggling area of the city. The company is seeking 300 wealthy Chinese to invest a total of $150 million.

Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, created a stir in March after reports she had mentioned her brother, a senior adviser to Trump, in a presentation in China. Marketing materials for the event also cited the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status.

The Kushner Cos. said Meyer’s intention was not to use the connection to the White House to lure investors. Jared Kushner stepped down as CEO of the Kushner Cos. when he joined the White House. His lawyer has said that he has sold his stake in One Journal Square.

To handle the mapmaking for Trump Bay Street, the Kushner Cos. turned to Evans, Carroll & Associates, an economic consultancy in Boca Raton, Florida.

On May 6, 2015, Evans emailed the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development requesting that it review a proposed map stretching over two dozen census tracts. The map formed an odd shape, with some relatively low unemployment areas separated by a few miles to high unemployment ones.

By the end of the month, came New Jersey’s reply: The areas included in the map, called a Targeted Employment Area, had an overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent – high enough to qualify for the EB-5 program.

The unemployment rate for the single census tract that includes 65 Bay Street was not mentioned in the emails, but has typically been much lower, according to Dave Evans of Evans, Carroll & Associates. Evans said the unemployment rate last year for the census tract that includes 65 Bay Street averaged 1.3 percent.

In order to qualify for EB-5 financing, a building needs to be in a Targeted Employment Area with unemployment 150 percent above the average U.S. rate.

Critics have faulted the EB-5 program for failing to bring investment into poor communities as intended. By gerrymandering together rich geographic areas with poor ones, developers have managed to win approval from economic development authorities for luxury projects in Manhattan, California’s Beverly Hills and Miami’s South Beach.

Earlier this year, Evans, Carroll & Associates emailed New Jersey state officials for Kushner’s One Journal Square project, too.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

 

Gerrymandering Human Lives – How Jared Kushner and “Cos” Stripped the Poor to Build for the Rich

 

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Kushner tapped program meant for job-starved areas to build a luxury skyscraper

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-kushner-eb5-20170601-story.html

Jared Kushner and his real estate partners wanted to take advantage of a federal program in 2015 that would save them millions of dollars as they built an opulent, 50-story residential tower in Jersey City, N.J.’s booming waterfront district, just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.

There was just one problem: The program was designed to benefit projects in poor, job-starved areas.

So the project’s consultants got creative, records show.

They worked with state officials in New Jersey to come up with a map that defined the area around 65 Bay Street as a swath of land that stretched nearly four miles and included some of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods. At the same time, they excluded some wealthy neighborhoods only blocks away.

The tactic — critics liken it to the gerrymandering of legislative districts — made it appear that the site was in an area with extraordinarily high unemployment, allowing Kushner Cos. and its partners to get $50 million in low-cost financing through the EB-5 visa program.

The move was legal, and other developers have used similar strategies in recent years, often aided by state officials who welcome the infusion of cash. But it illustrates how Kushner — who ran his family’s real estate company before he became a senior advisor to President Trump — and his partners exploited a loophole in a federal program that prominent members of both parties say has been plagued by fraud and abuse.

On the south side of Jersey City, which has some of the most entrenched poverty in the New York City region, many people interviewed one day last week were surprised that their neighborhood’s troubles were part of the reason that 65 Bay Street got cheap financing.

“That’s very sad,” said Pastor Shyrone Richardson of the World Outreach Christian Church in the struggling Bergen-Lafayette section of Jersey City. “Unfortunately, the people who are benefiting from this are not the people in this area.”

Richardson’s church is in a five-block area where nearly one in five were jobless and there were three fatal shootings in 2015, according to an analysis of crime and census data.

His neighborhood seems a world away from the gleaming office towers and trendy cafes that surround 65 Bay Street. The Jersey City waterfront saw a building boom after 9/11 that transformed the area into one of the hottest real estate markets in the New York metro region, drawing residents from Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Apartments in the Bay Street building, marketed as Trump Bay Street, rent for up to $4,700 a month and offer sweeping views of Lower Manhattan. A nearby commuter train shuttles passengers to the World Trade Center within minutes. The area within a roughly three-block radius around the building had an unemployment rate of just 2.6% in 2015, according to census data.

Under the EB-5 program, a wealthy foreigner can get a fast-track visa granting U.S. residency by investing at least $500,000 in a project in a “targeted employment area.” To qualify, the area must have an unemployment rate at least 1½ times the national average. For developers, the terms of the investment are more favorable than a bank loan.

The Trump administration is considering whether to adopt changes that would prevent EB-5 gerrymandering. Kushner has said he will recuse himself from any discussions on the program.

Kushner Cos., meanwhile, is rushing to raise $150 million in low-cost financing through EB-5 for a separate project in Jersey City: a pair of luxury towers in an area called Journal Square. Kushner’s sister caused a stir this month when she mentioned her brother in a pitch for the project to investors in China.

For that project, too, the company is linking the development to blighted neighborhoods miles to the south while excluding adjoining neighborhoods that have lower unemployment rates, records show.

An executive at U.S. Immigration Fund-NJ, a firm helping Kushner Cos. raise EB-5 money for both projects, defended the practice. Mark Giresi, chief operating officer, called it a “common sense” approach that reflects the broader economic reality of each project’s surroundings. He also said jobs created by the project could be filled by workers from the depressed areas only miles away.

“In large urban markets like Jersey City these types of real estate development projects create much-needed jobs, particularly in the construction industry across areas of the city that cover multiple census tracts,” Giresi said in a statement. Census tracts are government-defined neighborhoods, sometimes as small as a few blocks.

Giresi said the Bay Street project created more than 1,280 construction and other jobs and that 1 Journal Square is projected to create 6,600. Under the program, each $500,000 investment must create at least 10 jobs.

The program’s critics say that cobbling together multiple census tracts to push up the average unemployment rate too often benefits developers and areas that do not need the government help. They point to EB-5 projects in prosperous areas of Manhattan, downtown Washington and in Beverly Hills.

“Many of these affluent-area projects would have been built and jobs created without the infusion of EB-5 capital,” said Gary Friedland, a scholar in residence at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Consequently, deserving projects can’t be built and the resulting jobs are lost because the projects are deprived of the essential capital to proceed.”

The government caps the number of EB-5 visas it issues each year, and most of the resulting investment goes to high-profile projects in prosperous areas.

A spokeswoman for Kushner Cos. declined to comment, as did Jared Kushner’s spokesman.

Jared Kushner has sold his interest in 1 Journal Square but maintains an ownership stake in 65 Bay Street. The KABR Group, a partner in the luxury tower on Bay Street, also declined to comment.

Kushner’s prominence is drawing renewed attention to the practice, which has been the subject of years of debate in Congress and furious lobbying by the real estate industry. In interviews along Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City last week, there was a common reaction.

“It’s like we’re being used,” said Helen Gathers, a registered nurse who has lived in Jersey City for 38 years.

Down the block, Laville Penn, a 54-year-old who was released from prison in early 2016 after a drug possession conviction, was looking for employment. He had been searching for steady work in construction for more than six months, he said, but had found only temporary day jobs.

Now, hoping to pick up some hours, he stopped by a lot where a friend was doing contract demolition work. Penn said the high-rises built in Jersey City are typically union jobs. “It’s difficult to get into the union if you don’t have certification or experience,” he said.

The EB-5 program was initiated in 1990 to help attract foreign investment to rural and poor, urban areas that have trouble drawing conventional financing or investment.

But developers are free to string together an endless number of contiguous census tracts until they reach the unemployment threshold. In the years since the Great Recession, this has often meant finding the nearest poor area and drawing a line to it.

Documents obtained from New Jersey through a public records request show just how easy that was for Kushner Cos. and KABR Group as they sought to build the Bay Street tower.

On May 6, 2015, Michael Evans, a consultant working on behalf of the project, sent an email to an official in the New Jersey Department of Labor asking that the Bay Street area be deemed an area with high unemployment. Individual states are responsible for reviewing unemployment data and issuing letters certifying that projects qualify for the federal program.

Evans wrote that such an area could be created by combining 26 census tracts in Jersey City that stretch more than two miles to the northwest and three miles to the southwest.

“The client as always is in a great hurry so if you can e-mail me the letter as soon as it is finished it would be appreciated,” Evans wrote. Evans did not respond to a request for comment.

There was a problem, though. The census tracts weren’t contiguous — and didn’t include the the project itself.

Three weeks later, the state, wrote back that the project qualified under a different but similarly attenuated configuration that achieved the same goal. New Jersey’s state website says it will help developers “perform a special tabulation for the area” of their project using census data.

The state-approved map strung together 16 census tracts that went nearly four miles to the southwest, crossing the New Jersey Turnpike and heading south to the Bergen-Lafayette and Greenville areas. Together, those neighborhoods had an average unemployment rate that edged just higher than 9.3%, the qualifying rate at the time.

That probably saved Kushner and his partners millions of dollars.

Developers typically pay only 4% to 8% interest annually on money raised through EB-5, experts said. Conventional financing can carry an interest rates of between 12% and 18%. On the $50 million for Bay Street, that difference amounts to millions of dollars annually over the life of the loan.

On Jan. 5 of this year, a little over two weeks before Trump was to take office, another consultant working on behalf of Kushner Cos. got in touch with New Jersey state officials again. This time, it was about 1 Journal Square. The census tract where it is located had an unemployment rate of 2.9% in 2015, but the consultant suggested adding five neighborhoods to triple that unemployment rate.

The approval came four days later, records show. Kushner’s sister went to China in May seeking the $150 million in EB-5 financing.

The Trump administration will decide in the coming months whether to enact rules, proposed by the Obama administration, limiting the census tracts that can be considered for EB-5 eligibility to only those directly adjacent to the tract containing the development.

The proposal is being considered by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. Under the proposed rules, neither the 65 Bay Street tower nor the proposed 1 Journal Square project would be in a “targeted employment area.”

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-kushner-eb5-20170601-story.html

Joel Landau – Have You no Shame? An Allure of Disgust – but no photo of your face!

 

allure without landau

THE REAL DEAL

Allure demands lender pay $40M for Brooklyn nursing home

Joel Landau’s firm and Sabre Group are fighting over terms of loan default

March 06, 2017 01:40PM
By Kathryn Brenzel

The Allure Group fired back against a lawsuit filed by its lender on a Brooklyn nursing home, claiming that the financial firm should pay $40 million for the property.

 

Allure, headed by Joel Landau, claims that the Sabre Group must pay $40 million for 270 Nostrand Avenue and an additional $6 million because the sale of the property didn’t close on time, according to documents filed in state Supreme Court. Allure, one of the developers at the center of the Rivington House scandal, maintains that “the express and unambiguous provisions” of the mortgage it received from Sabre require the Midtown firm to pay $40 million for the property.

A spokesperson for Sabre would only say that Allure has “been in default for quite some time and that’s why we’re pursuing our claims.”

Sabre sued Allure in December, accusing the company of failing to repay a $20 million loan it provided to acquire the Brooklyn nursing home. Allure purchased CABS Nursing Home in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 2015 for $15.5 million. Sabre claims that, under the terms of the mortgage, it can purchase the nursing home for $25 million because Allure defaulted.

But Allure alleges that because the property was vacant and had no pending litigation at the time that Sabr tried to act on its purchase right, the lender is on the hook for higher purchasing price. The landlord also claims that a liquidated damages provision in the mortgage requires Sabr to put $6 million toward the outstanding balance on its loan, since the financial firm failed to acquire the property after Allure repeatedly scheduled closing dates.

Landau declined to comment.

In December, the city admitted that it did not have a legal case against Allure, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to sue the company for flipping 45 Rivington Street. Allure made $72 million when it sold the property to Slate Property Group. In April, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas after Allure filed demolition plans for the Nostrand property, with the intention of replacing it with a seven-story, 241-unit rental building.

The nursing home filed a lawsuit against Allure in December claiming the company marketed itself as a nursing home business while bidding for the property and instead forced residents out. The lawsuit also notes that the property flip may have led to the deaths of a few nursing home residents, who they say were forced out.

Ramapo Residents Make a Stand Against Ramapo Temporary School Law – Setting a Precedent!!!!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ramapo Residents Fight Back Against

Ramapo Temporary School Law For Very First Time

Suffern, NY – November 7, 2016 – On June 22, 2016, Tony Mallia, Director of Building, Planning and Zoning for the Town of Ramapo, illegally issued a permit to Aron Bineth / Congregation Yeshiva Zera Yakov to allow for the conversion of a single family home at 101 Carlton Road West to a Yeshiva for 75 students. Mr. Mallia granted this permit over the objections of other Town and local fire officials who pointed out that this conversion was not legal under the Town of Ramapo Code, and who identified many health and safety issues in establishing such a project on an undersized residential lot. This permit, granted in violation of State and local law without planning board review, public hearings, or CDRC review meeting, was challenged by Local Resident Peter Katz in formal letters to the Town Board and Building Inspector. After receiving no response from the Town, Katz formally appealed to the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals. Katz had no choice but to petition the Supreme Court of Rockland County today to intercede, as the Ramapo ZBA approved a request by the Yeshiva’s owner/operators to adjourn the hearing of this important case while the construction continues upon the site at a breakneck pace.

The Verified Complaint filed today (Index No. 034819/2016) sets forth ten (10) causes of action, asking the Court to revoke this illegal building permit and to stop all work at the property, until same can be conducted in full compliance with State and local law.

Mr. Katz is joined by two other residents who also live within 500 feet of the property, Jack Gross and Sharon Kronenberg. All three of these Monsey/Suffern area residents are observant orthodox Jews who have sought out and obtained permission from their Rabbi to pursue this action against the Town of Ramapo.

The misuse and abuse of the Temporary Modular School Law under which this permit was approved has caused extreme divisiveness in Ramapo, particularly in the lower density residential neighborhoods of Western Ramapo. Properties housing these “temporary” schools often do not meet zoning code requirements and rely on the much too easy granting of substantial zoning variances by the ZBA. Most egregiously, as is the case in this new litigation, these projects are considered and approved without any form of public hearing as required under the law. Although these schools are supposedly only given temporary permits for one year, with a potential renewal for only one more year, the history of these projects demonstrates a complete lack of code enforcement by the Town of Ramapo. Once a “temporary school” is permitted, it remains open indefinitely.

These plaintiffs are not, of course, opposed to religious schools in their neighborhood. They are however, opposed to the pattern of disregarding the very laws which were established to protect the character of their neighborhood, to ensure the health, safety, and comfort of its inhabitants, and to ensure that their voices, and not just only the voices of developers, are heard.

# # #

Contact:

Peter Katz Phone – 845.357.0129

peterkatz99@gmail.com

 

LEGAL Filings:

Filing User Information

User Name:   STEVEN MOGEL Phone Number:   Fax Number:   Email Service Address:  smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com Work Address:

Payment Information

Amount of payment:  $210 Date of payment:  11/07/2016 Payment method:  VISA/MC Authorization code:  07240G Payment Comments:

E-mail Service Notifications Sent
Name Email Address
STEVEN MOGEL smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com
Note: Service of initiating documents and the “Notice of Availability Regarding Electronic Filing” (in consensual cases) or the “Notice of Commencement of Mandatory E-Filed Case” (in mandatory cases) must be made in hard copy (unless the party agrees to accept service by electronic means). These forms can be found on the NYSCEF site under the “Forms” menu. The served copies also must bear the assigned Index Number and the date of filing (CPLR 305).
Documents Filed

(To view a document, click the document type link)

Doc # Document Type Additional Doc Info Special Instructions Filed Date
1 SUMMONS + COMPLAINT
2 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/5/16 CDRC Application & 4/4/16 Narrative
3 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the sections of the Code
4 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of Town of Ramapo Zoning Code
5 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/18/16 CDRC Memorandum
6 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/23/16 Mallia Memorandum
7 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of Lepori and Picarello Memoranda
8 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of Moran Memorandum
9 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of RCSD Memorandum
10 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of Tallman Fire Memorandum
11 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 6/1/16 CDRC agenda
12 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 6/22/16 Permit Application & 6/22/16 Building Permit
13 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of ZBA Appeal
14 EXHIBIT(S) 10/27/16 ZBA Agenda & Correspondence
15 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of 9/1/16 & 9/16/16 Shapiro Correspondence
16 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of cited sections of 2010 NYS Building Code & NYS Residential Code
THIS E-MAIL IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE NAMED ADDRESSEE(S) AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE NEW YORK STATE COURTS ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM. IF YOU ARE NEITHER THE INTENDED RECIPIENT NOR A PERSON DESIGNATED TO RECEIVE MESSAGES ON BEHALF OF THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY. THANK YOU.
Rockland County Supreme Court Notification 11/07/2016

Please retain this notification for your records.
The NYSCEF web site has received documents from the filing user, STEVEN MOGEL , for the following case/claim.

 

Case Information

Index #:  034819/2016 Short Caption:  PETER KATZ et al – v. – YAKOV J. OSTREICHER et al Assigned Case Judge:  No Judge Assigned

Filing User Information

User Name:   STEVEN MOGEL Phone Number:   Fax Number:   Email Service Address:  smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com Work Address:

Documents Filed

(To view a document, click the document type link)

Doc # Document Type Additional Doc Info Special Instructions Filed Date
17 ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE ( PROPOSED )   Relief Sought: Injunction/Restraining Order 11/07/2016
18 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
19 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
20 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
21 AFFIRMATION 11/07/2016
22 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of 5/5/16 CDRC Application & 4/4/16 Narrative Exhibit #: 1 11/07/2016
23 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the sections of the Code Exhibit #: 2 11/07/2016
24 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the Town of Ramapo Zoning Code Exhibit #: 3 11/07/2016
25 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the 5/18/16 CDRC Memorandum Exhibit #: 4 11/07/2016
26 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the 5/23/16 Mallia Memoranda Exhibit #: 5 11/07/2016
27 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the Lepori & Picarello Memoranda Exhibit #: 6 11/07/2016
28 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the Moran Memorandum Exhibit #: 7 11/07/2016
29 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the RCSD Memorandum Exhibit #: 8 11/07/2016
30 EXHIBIT(S) Copies of the Tallman Fire Memorandum Exhibit #: 9 11/07/2016
31 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the 6/1/16 CDRC agenda Exhibit #: 10 11/07/2016
32 EXHIBIT(S) 6/22/16 Permit Application & 6/22/16 Buiding Permit Exhibit #: 11 11/07/2016
33 EXHIBIT(S) Copy of the ZBA Appeal Exhibit #: 12 11/07/2016
34 EXHIBIT(S) 10/27/16 ZBA Agenda & Correspondence Exhibit #: 13 11/07/2016
35 EXHIBIT(S) 9/1/16 & 9/16/16 Shapiro Correspondence Exhibit #: 14 11/07/2016
36 EXHIBIT(S) Cited Sections of the 2010 Building Code of NYS & NYS Residential Code Exhibit #: 15 11/07/2016
37 RJI -RE: ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE 11/07/2016
E-mail Service Notifications Sent
Name Email Address
STEVEN MOGEL smogel@sullivancountylawyers.com
Parties Without Representation

Court rules require hard copy service upon non-participating and opted-out parties. NYSCEF has no record of opt out or participation recorded for the parties listed below.

Party Name Role
YAKOV J. OSTREICHER Defendant/Respondent
ARON BINETH Defendant/Respondent
CONGREGATION YESHIVA ZERA YAKOV Defendant/Respondent
ANTHONY MALLIA Defendant/Respondent
THIS E-MAIL IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE NAMED ADDRESSEE(S) AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE NEW YORK STATE COURTS ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM. IF YOU ARE NEITHER THE INTENDED RECIPIENT NOR A PERSON DESIGNATED TO RECEIVE MESSAGES ON BEHALF OF THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY. THANK YOU.
Paul Piperato ,  Rockland County Clerk   –   Piperatp@co.rockland.ny.us
Phone:  845-638-5094     Fax:  845-638-5073     Website:  http://www.rocklandcountyclerk.com

 

 

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.

 

Community Board Shoots Down Upper West Side Condo Proposal

Upper West Side Synagogue’s Condo Plan Rejected by Community Board

 Congregation Shearith Israel wants to build a nine-story community center with five condos on the top stories directly behind its synagogue on West 70th Street.

Congregation Shearith Israel wants to build a nine-story community center with five condos on the top stories directly behind its synagogue on West 70th Street.View Full Caption

 

UPPER WEST SIDE — A synagogue seeking approval for a controversial plan to build a community center and condos behind the house of worship had its designs rejected by Community Board 7 Tuesday, an action the city will take into account in deciding whether to grant approval to the project.

Congregation Shearith Israel is seeking approval for alterations to the interior design of its proposed 9-story building, which will include community space and five luxury condos, directly behind the synagogue at 8 W. 70th St.

The new plans need the green light from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), a city agency that oversees real estate development, before the project can move forward. But the congregation’s presentation on Tuesday created too many questions for board members to sign off on the plan.

n Aug. 12, the BSA sent Congregation Shearith Israel a list of 40 questions to respond to regarding its plans before any decision is made, according to an email the BSA shared with DNAinfo and as previously reported by West Side Rag. 

The congregation has not yet sent its responses to the BSA, a lawyer representing Shearith Israel, Zachary Bernstein, told board members Tuesday.

CB 7 member Paige Crowley argued at the meeting that “it’s premature to take an action until we have this information at our fingertips. Right now it’s he said-she said.”

Given the lack of information, the full board voted to reject the project, a decision the congregation is “disappointed by,” Bernstein said Wednesday.

“Responses to the BSA’s request will be filed shortly and the Community Board will simultaneously receive these responses. We look forward to addressing any further questions during the BSA hearing process and are hopeful that the synagogue will receive the approvals needed to allow for development of its Community House,” he added.

Continue reading: https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160825/upper-east-side/apartments-for-sale-homes-condos-co-op-real-estate-nyc-open-house