Leviev wins control of 20 Pine

By David Jones | February 27, 2009 09:19AM

Facing an open revolt and potential legal action from homeowners, billionaire developer Lev Leviev has wrested control of his struggling 20 Pine condominium in the Financial District, and pledged to finish construction of the building’s common areas by the beginning of June.

Leviev’s Africa Israel USA took control of the 409-unit building from his long-time partner Shaya Boymelgreen after more than 50 homeowners revolted at the building, which has suffered from months of construction delays, slumping sales and questions about its financial stability.  

“Africa Israel USA has taken control of management and sales for 20 Pine Street – The Collection in order to increase professional oversight of the project and ensure completion of the building,” the company said in a statement released to The Real Deal. “We are now overseeing the construction and have invested additional capital for the completion of the amenities by June 1. In addition, Africa Israel is taking new positions on the condominium board and communicating with homeowners to provide them with regular updates on construction.”

Attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, who represents more than 50 unit owners in the building, praised the move by Leviev, but warned that he would hold the company accountable if promises are broken in the future.

“I hope for the best, but I expect the worst,” Bailey said. “I will wreak havoc if they don’t build this building the way it’s supposed to be built.”

The partnership, called Leviev Boymelgreen, first acquired the former JP Morgan headquarters from the Resnick and Reuben real estate families for $142 million in 2005.  

As The Real Deal first reported, construction of the building’s common areas suddenly stopped February 2, to focus on completion of 50 new apartments at the tower, according to broker Michael Shvo, who has been marketing the building. Shvo said that the building had 30,000 square feet of amenities, including a pool and fitness room that were only 50 percent completed.  The building had been managed by Cooper Square Realty on behalf of Leviev and Boymelgreen.

Boymelgreen, who has partnered with Leviev at several other New York condos, was not immediately available for comment.

The move marks the second time in two months that Leviev has stepped in to rescue one of his troubled condos. In January he settled a very public legal dispute with partner Maurice Mann over the troubled Apthorp conversion at 390 West End Avenue, which was facing threat of foreclosure by Anglo Irish and Apollo Real Estate. In that case, Mann was replaced as managing agent of the building by the Feil Organization.