Developer Benjamin Ringel and two of his investment partners are facing a lawsuit from lenders looking to enforce $35 million in loans connected to a bankrupt New Jersey shopping mall.
Ringel, the president of Armstrong Capital and the developer behind a Food Emporium site on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, was sued in Manhattan Supreme Court by special servicer Rialto Capital Advisors over a loan connected to the Commons at Manahawkin Village.
The property, which is called AC 1 Manahawkin, is an upscale shopping center in Manahawkin, N.J. The 321,000-square-foot complex includes chain store retailers, including TJ Maxx, Staples, K Mart, Pier One and other outlets.
In June, Ringel’s limited liability firm that controls the mall filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But Tibor and Gershon Klein, a father-and-son team from Brooklyn who are minority investors in the complex, filed documents in the bankruptcy case insisting they did not give permission for the filing. The pair, which owns 47.5 percent of the shopping center, claim such a request was required to place the company in Chapter 11. A Ringel entity owns the majority of the mall.
Lawyers for the Klein family said they filed to dismiss the bankruptcy case. The family plans to either refinance or sell the mall once the dispute is resolved.
“We are discussing the matter with Rialto and hopefully will come to some sort of resolution,” said Abe Backenroth, attorney for the Kleins.
According to court records, Ringel and the Kleins filed suit in 2013 to prevent the original lender, RCG LV Debt IV Non-Reit Asset Holdings, from a foreclosure sale of a $36.6 million mortgage loan, plus an additional $370,000 mezzanine loan. The loan was later securitized by Wells Fargo Commercial Mortgage Securities.
This is not the only court action related to the New Jersey mall. Acadia Realty filed a lawsuit in 2013 alleging Ringel and the Kleins defaulted on loans connected to several properties, including the Manahawkin complex. Acadia also filed suit that year to prevent Ringel from disposing of any excess proceeds connected to the sale of a retail condo that houses a Food Emporium on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at 250 West 90th Street.
Attorney Douglas Segal, who represents Ringel in the state case, declined to comment. Ringel could not be immediately reached for comment.