Anbau sues adjacent property owners over “paralyzed” Chelsea condo project

Developer blames Arthur Minerof, owner of the next-door Milan rental, for stop work orders
By Leigh Kamping-Carder | February 22, 2012 11:00AM

Living in Manhattan practically forces residents to live cheek by jowl, and sometimes that proximity creates disputes that stand in the way of new residential developments. That appears to be the case with developer Anbau Enterprises’ planned 16-story condominium tower at 124 West 23rd Street, near Sixth Avenue.

Anbau filed a lawsuit Feb. 14 claiming Arthur Minerof, who indirectly owns the buildings on either side of the site, has effectively “paralyzed” construction by preventing workers from accessing his properties to install protective measures. The adversaries are gearing up to meet before a judge March 7, but in the meantime, the city’s Department of Buildings has ordered Anbau to stop some of its work.

The developer purchased the then-vacant site from Minerof’s FranPearl Equities for $19.3 million in September 2008, and about a month later acquired air rights at the same site, city property records show.

Anbau is planning a 55,000-sqaure-foot building made up of 34 units, ranging from 600 to 2,500 square feet, most of them two-bedrooms, according to the developer’s website. Construction started last February, and completion is scheduled for this year, but Anbau claims that a failure to reach an agreement with Minerof could jeopardize that timeline.

In the lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, Anbau said that it requires periodic access to the neighboring buildings until at least July to install roof protections, remove debris and perform exterior stucco work, among other things.

The construction site sits between the Milan at 120 West 23rd Street, a 15-story residential rental building owned by Minerof’s Milan Associates, and a four-story mixed-use building at 128 West 23rd Street, owned by FranPearl.

Anbau claims it has spent the last six months trying to negotiate a license agreement with Minerof, and offered to pay a monthly license fee of $2,250, but those “efforts have resulted in nothing but unreasonable and outrageous demands from [Minerof] and his counsel which have thwarted any chance for reasonable agreement,” the suit says.

The bargaining allegedly runs contrary to an agreement the parties reached last September where Milan Associates conveyed certain development rights to Anbau and agreed to cooperate on the project, according to the suit.

But Anbau has only provided general information on what it plans to do, according to a letter written on behalf of Minerof by Christopher McCabe, a partner with the law firm Quinn & McCabe. The letter, which was filed in court, was dated several weeks before the September agreement.

In the letter, McCabe said that a more specific plan that addressed the buildings’ skylights, chimneys and other unique features would be necessary. McCabe did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Until now, Anbau has protected the neighboring buildings with netting, but DOB recently informed the developer that these measures were no longer sufficient, according to the suit.

DOB has issued two partial stop work orders at the site, one on Feb. 1 saying that no roof protection was installed over the Milan and another on Feb. 9 saying that a skylight broke at 128 West 23rd Street, building records show. The latter order bars Anbau from working within a 10-foot perimeter of the exterior wall.

Anbau has asked the court to put into effect its proposed licensing agreement, contending that it may lose millions of dollars in 421-a tax abatement benefits if it does not receive a temporary certificate of occupancy by a certain date.

A representative for Anbau declined to comment, and an attorney for the company did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A call to Milan Associates was also not immediately returned.

Anbau, run by the husband-and-wife team of Glascock and Barbara van Beuren, is also at work on another Chelsea condo building about a block away, at 39-41 West 23rd Street. Previously, the company developed such projects as 110 Central Park South and Harsen House at 120 West 72nd Street.