Tribeca loft buyers, developer to square off in court

TRD New York /
Jun.June 18, 2008 04:03 PM

The developer of a long-delayed Tribeca condo building is slated to face three angry buyers — including the daughter of World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein — in court on July 28.
The buyers claim in a recent lawsuit that the developer, Tribeca Mews Ltd., has refused to close on condos in the 74-unit Tribeca Space in a scheme to force buyers to rescind their contracts. 

The suit, filed last month in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that developers Brad Thurman and his father, Harold, delayed closing dozens of contracts at the 25 Murray Street project so that frustrated buyers would back out of their agreements. The suit, first reported by the Tribeca Tribune, alleges that the developers then planned to take advantage of the thriving Downtown loft market and resell the units at higher prices. It seeks to force the developers to obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy.

The suit alleges that “defendant Brad Thurman boasted to Plaintiff [Lisa] Silverstein that it was his goal to force every purchaser of units in the building to rescind his or her purchase agreement, so that he could take advantage of the current upswing in Tribeca property prices.”

The plaintiffs are claiming damages and demand that a temporary receiver be appointed to manage the project.

A lawyer for the developer vehemently denied the charges, and said it has hired a former Buildings Department lawyer to help it obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy.

“The sponsor for the 25 Murray Street project steadfastly denies the allegations in Ms. Silverstein’s and the Forman’s lawsuit and has been as frustrated as they are by the delays,” said Jason Blasberg, attorney for Tribeca Mews, in an emailed statement.

Blasberg said in his statement that the delays forced the developer to offer a number of buyers the chance to rescind their contracts. New York state law requires a condo developer to offer buyers a way out if the development’s closing is delayed more than 12 months.

Blasberg said that Tribeca Space, which is being marketed by Jim Brawders, senior vice president at Corcoran Group, has 30 units still available, and called the project “financially sound.”

Court records show that Lisa Silverstein, a senior vice president at Silverstein Properties Inc., signed an agreement and paid a 10 percent down payment in August 2006 on four ninth-floor apartments at Tribeca Space for $6 million. She planned to relocate her husband and three children into the building, after combining the four units into one large apartment. 

According to a first-quarter report by the Corcoran Group, prices for Downtown loft apartments rose 8 percent year-over-year to an average of more than $2 million. The Real Deal reported on the Downtown loft boom in its May issue.

Last month, the Tribeca Tribune reported that 30 contracts were rescinded after a group of irate buyers formed the 25 Murray Street Purchasers Rights Coalition and complained about the delays in a letter to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Silverstein, Tribeca Mews and the attorney general’s office were not immediately available for comment.

The complex originally started sales in 2006. Apartments range from $1.35 million for a 1,395-square-foot one-bedroom unit to $2.275 million for a 2,094-square-foot unit with three bedrooms and three baths.

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