+aRt and Chelsea Muse owners seek $4 million from art gallery landlord

New developments sue neighboring Landmark Arts Building landlord in dispute over construction and ‘punitive’ floodlighting

TRD New York /
May.May 29, 2012 06:00 PM

Chelsea is so closely associated with its art galleries that two new developments — the 91-unit +aRt condominium and the 28-unit Chelsea Muse rental — explicitly touted the area’s art scene to lure buyers and tenants. But now, the owners of those properties, both developed by Ekstein Development, are claiming that the Landmark Arts Building, an adjacent property that houses countless galleries, is purposely keeping them up at night with “intensely bright floodlights.”

Residents have complained that Landmark Arts landlord Pinetree Group is retaliating against them for not allowing the company to use their outdoor space to store construction materials throughout the summer, according to court documents filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court.

Two LLCs that own +aRt and the Chelsea Muse — at 540 West 28th Street and 537 West 27th Street, between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, respectively — as well as the +art condominium board accused Pinetree of trespass, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other claims. Their lawsuit seeks at least $4 million in compensation, plus punitive damages and a court order preventing Pinetree from using the lights.

The 97,000-square-foot Landmark Arts, at 547 West 27th Street, houses Pinetree’s offices and 30 separate gallery spaces. Asking rents range from about $40 per square foot for an upstairs space to $80 per square foot for a ground floor space, James Pastreich, president of Pinetree, told The Real Deal in February.

Pastreich, who is also named as a defendant, did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to the complaint, Pinetree asked to use the courtyard that +aRt and the Chelsea Muse share, as well as the roofs and apartment terraces, in late May, without explaining why or offering compensation.

Emails filed in court indicated that Landmark Arts was undergoing repairs of leaks and damage to its façade and interior.

The building owners and the condo board refused access, asserting that Pinetree would have to compensate tenants and obtain permission from condo unit owners directly, the suit says.

Instead, Pinetree allegedly installed the floodlights on May 22, causing “intensely bright light to shine into the apartments on the north wall of [Chelsea Muse] and the south wall of [+art] which makes it impossible for a reasonable person to sleep during the evening and early morning hours,” the suit says.

Despite complaints from the residents, including from Eric Moran, the +aRt condo board president and an executive vice president at Ekstein, Pinetree allegedly turned the lights on again on May 23.

The website for +aRt, where sales started in October 2008, claims the development was “built in deference to the artistic narrative of Chelsea’s most important artists, architects, and poets.” Meanwhile, the website for Chelsea Muse notes that in the neighborhood, “art inhabits every corner.” Leasing at the building started this past June.

Moran did not immediately return a call seeking comment, nor did an attorney for the plaintiffs.

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