The Real Deal New York

In battle between Bauhouse and broker, no one’s standing down

Joseph Beninati's firm owes Nathaniel Christian $140K commission on 515 W. 29th St.

June 03, 2015 06:07PM
By Claire Moses

From left: Nathaniel Christian and Joseph Beninati

From left: Nathaniel Christian and Joseph Beninati

A two-plus year legal fight between broker Nathaniel Christian and developer the Bauhouse Group doesn’t look like it’s winding down anytime soon.

On Monday, New York Supreme Court Judge Ellen Coin ordered Joseph Beninati’s Bauhouse to pay a $140,000 outstanding commission for air rights on a High Line property the developer bought in 2013 for $24 million. Bauhouse is planning a roughly 40,000-square-foot residential building at the location, 515 West 29th Street.

The judge also dismissed a defamation suit Bauhouse filed against Christian after he made comments in The Real Deal against the developer in 2013, stating that he was disappointed in Bauhouse and “their betrayal.”

As far as the unpaid commission, Bauhouse admits it owes money, it just doesn’t want to pay Christian directly.

“We never denied we owed the money,” Bauhouse’s attorney Eric Levine said. “We’re not hiding. We pay our debts.”

Levine will put forward a motion to transfer the owed money to the court rather than Christian. The reasoning, he said, is that the broker still owes money to creditors.

Christian, in turn, claims that the debt to his creditors — Richard Rumpf and David Zahabian — was settled years ago, and that this is simply a stalling tactic by Bauhouse.

If Christian doesn’t get the commission, he said, he plans to put liens on Bauhouse properties, such as 515 West 29th Street and the developer’s project at Sutton Place.

Meanwhile, a separate suit is snaking its way through the legal system, in which Bauhouse claims that Christian promised the development firm’s principals, Beninati, Christopher Jones and Daniel Lee, a 10 percent stake in a picture-sharing application he started called Picshare.

“They claim they own 10 percent because they gave me advice,” Christian told TRD in a phone interview on Wednesday. All, Christian continued, “to get out of paying the commission.”

The suit has made it tough for Christian to find investors for Picshare, he claims. But Levine challenged that claim.

“He says he lost investors?” Levine said. “Ask him to come up with a list.”