Developer battles Scarano in court

TRD New York /
Sep.September 26, 2008 02:23 PM

Controversial architect Robert Scarano is locked in two court battles with a young development firm that is seeking at least $4 million in damages for two sold-out, luxury Manhattan projects that it claims were harmed by the architect’s aggressive design practices.

West Village-based Blesso Properties filed a lawsuit September 17 in Manhattan State Supreme Court through a related company, which charges Scarano with fraud, breach of contract and negligence, and seeks damages in excess of $1 million for a project at 234 West 20th Street in Chelsea.

But, Scarano said in an interview that he believed the suit was just a tactical response to a lawsuit that he filed in June seeking $208,099 in payments he claimed the developer still owed him on a record-setting project at 138 West 124th Street in Harlem. At $1,007 per square foot, the two-bedroom penthouse condo was sold in 2007 at the highest price ever paid for an apartment above 110th Street, according to Corcoran Group Marketing.

In a counter suit, Blesso filed papers on September 4 seeking in excess of $3 million from Scarano for architectural malpractice, fraud and breach of contract.

“I’ve never worked for a baby like this guy,” Scarano said of Matthew Blesso, the 35-year-old president of Blesso Properties. “They are too stupid to be building in New York City.”

Blesso charged through court papers that Scarano filed building designs that he knew would not comply with the Department of Buildings’ regulations.

“As a result of Scarano’s misrepresentations and [the developer’s] reliance thereon, [the developer] was required to expend significant sums to bring the project into compliance with the Buildings [Department] rules,” the developer charged in the case of the Harlem condo, known as Loft124. It made similar claims concerning the Chelsea project.

In both cases, the developer claimed Scarano abused his self-certification privileges and filed plans although he “knew that his work would not and did not comply with the DOB standards,” the developer alleges. After audits by the DOB, each plan was later revised, leading to delays and cost overruns, the Blesso filings said.

Scarano said in both instances the changes were minor and typical, and the delays were recovered in high sales prices.

“You can’t go crying in the street with five loaves of bread under each arm,” he said.

“Blesso Properties is an innovative real estate development company for which sensitivity to neighborhoods, environmental stewardship and profitability are integral to the firm’s practice and definition of success,” said Blesso’s general counsel Michael Schneider. “Blesso Properties’ reputation speaks for itself.”

Blesso bought his first building in 1999 and opened his firm, which has developed 10 properties, in 2003, Schneider said. Blesso has worked with Scarano on three projects — the two in litigation and one at 142 West 10th Street in Greenwich Village.

Scarano, a Brooklyn-based architect who estimated that he has worked on about 1,000 projects in the city, surrendered his right to self-certify in 2006 after coming under scrutiny from the DOB. Since then, his projects must be submitted to the department for review.

In June this year, the city’s Department of Investigation filed administrative charges against Scarano, alleging he made false or misleading statements on DOB applications on a project in Brooklyn in 2000 and 2002. A department spokeswoman said today that the administrative charges remain under investigation.

Earlier, the architect was the focus of controversy and scrutiny from the DOB and the Department of Education after three construction workers died working on projects he designed in 2005 and 2006.

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