Park Columbus hit with $3.2M in liens

TRD New York /
Feb.February 19, 2009 03:24 PM

Some $3.15 million in mechanic’s liens from 20 subcontractors or suppliers have been filed in the past three months at YL Real Estate Developers’ condo conversion Park Columbus, court records show.

The subcontractors range from Manhattan-based Demar Plumbing Corporation, which has filed a lien for $713,250, to high-end German cabinet maker Poggenpohl, which says it’s owed $261,483, according to court documents.

Contractors walked off the site at 101 West 87th Street at Columbus Avenue approximately two months ago because they weren’t being paid, according to Robert Levin, the owner of Welcome Home Modern + Gallery, which is located in the building.

The halt in construction is temporary, and work on the building is expected to resume March 1, according to Stephen Kliegerman, the executive director of development marketing at Halstead Property, which is handling appointment-only sales at the building. The sales office also has been temporarily closed, The Real Deal recently reported.

Park Columbus’ lender, Arbor Realty Trust, did not respond to requests for comment.

YL Real Estate Developers is facing other challenges.

Earlier this month, the developer was sued by Anglo Irish Bank, which is looking to foreclose on $165 million in mortgage loans made to Rector Square, another one of the company’s condo conversions. YL originally bought the building at 225 Rector Place at South End Avenue in 2005 from the Related Companies in a $165 million deal that included Columbus Green on West 87th Street, which has since been converted to Park Columbus.

Many large construction projects are hit with liens after contractors and owners disagree about whether work was completed adequately, experts said.

“It’s not so uncommon at a big building like Park Columbus,” said attorney Elias Schwartz, whose client, Gessin Electrical, has filed a lien for $15,073 at the property. “It’s just a notice that somebody out there hasn’t been paid.”

But the large number of liens at Park Columbus indicates that either the developer or general contractor may be in dire financial straits, said attorney Peter Lamont, the general counsel for Poggenpohl, who said the company is considering filing suit against the developer.

“I would suspect that there are serious problems,” Lamont said.

He said it’s likely the developer, and not the general contractor, for the Park Columbus Project, Newmark Construction Services, who has run out of money. Usually, if a contractor is not paying subcontractors, a lien serves to alert the developer, who often responds quickly to remedy the problem. Lamont said Poggenpohl has received no correspondence from the owner or general contractor since the fall of 2008 and has not received a response to the lien filed January 27.

It’s been over a year since Poggenpohl has been paid, Lamont said. A number of the custom-made cabinets commissioned for the building have been shipped from Germany and are now sitting in storage, he said. “Our product is all site-specific,” he said. “Each unit was individually measured. They’re left with a product that they can’t sell, yet costs a great deal to manufacture.”

He said the cabinetmaker must also swallow storage fees for the cabinets.

Another service provider who has filed a $304,272 lien on the property, Jeremiah Harrington of Yonkers-based Rockledge Scaffolding, estimated it has been four or five months since his company was paid for work at Park Columbus.

“I think maybe they’re waiting for financing,” he said, but added, “I don’t know much about it.”

Halstead’s Kliegerman said his firm is continuing to show apartments in the building.

The developer is “waiting for Arbor to fund the next draw,” he said. “As of last week when I spoke to them, things were moving along slowly.”

Neither Yair Levy, head of YL Real Estate Developers, nor Newmark Construction Services responded to requests for comment.

Levin, the gallery tenant, said he is closing his business after being evicted by Levy. He said construction at Park Columbus was disruptive to his business and to the small number of rental tenants currently living in the building. “Paintings would fall off the wall when the elevator would go up,” he said. “I rented a clean, quiet store. I didn’t rent a construction site.”

Levin enlisted the help of City Council member Gale Brewer and filed complaints about excessive noise and dust with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Buildings, though both agencies said they found no damages.

Welcome Home “definitely has some legitimate challenges,” said Brewer, who tried unsuccessfully to help the landlord and store owner come to an agreement. “When they were renovating upstairs, the contractors were not properly managed.”

This fall, the construction above Welcome Home caused flooding, Levin said, damaging $700,000 worth of furniture and paintings. Levin, who had begun placing his rent in escrow, was informed by Levy that his lease would not be renewed.

When construction at the building stopped, “that gave us a reprieve,” from the dust and noise, he said, but he’d already received an eviction notice.

The project has one outstanding ECB violation, according to the DOB Web site, for its outrigger beams not being set up according to the approved plans.

Complaints about illegal weekend work on the site have been filed, but have been resolved, the DOB site shows.

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