Savanna wants claims dismissed in suit over 141 Fifth Avenue

Developer points blame at contractors for alleged construction defects at converted condo
By David Jones | August 26, 2014 08:30AM

Savanna, the Manhattan real estate fund and developer of a residential condo conversion at 141 Fifth Avenue, has filed to dismiss a number of claims in a $7.5 million breach of contract lawsuit by the property’s board of managers, while alleging professional negligence against several of its own contractors.

Savanna lodged the allegations in an Aug. 6 counterclaim in Manhattan Supreme Court, seeking to indemnify itself against claims that the converted condo has major construction defects and claims that the firm diverted funds set aside to fix some of those defects.

Lawyers for Savanna say that most of the claims must be dismissed outright because the claims are either duplicative of other allegations, the board lacks standing to make such claims or the board lacks evidence to make them.

“However to the extent that any of the alleged defects exist at the building, sponsor cannot be held liable for the existence of such defects,” lawyers for Savanna wrote in the Aug. 6 filing.

Lawyers for the sponsor stated that its major contractors, including construction manager J Construction, architectural firm CetraRuddy and other firms, were responsible for delivering the final product free from defects. Indeed, the developer, in 2011 filed suit against several of those contractors alleging breach of contract and negligence for the design and construction of windows at the landmark Beaux-Arts building on 21st Street.

Savanna and SL Green originally purchased the former bank tower for $60 million in 2005, with SL Green and its joint venture partner Jeff Sutton eventually selling two retail condos on the lower floors for $46 million in 2011. They were not listed as defendants in this case.

Savanna, in a 2011 lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleged that J Construction, CetraRuddy and other subcontractors were responsible for designing and installing defective windows at the luxury property, forcing the developer to hire new contractors to replace them at the cost of $2.4 million.

The board originally filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Savanna in April 2013 alleging fraud, negligence and breach of contract, claiming that design and construction defects exceeded the defective windows, and also sought to replenish a $1.9 million fund designed to correct defects at the property.

The amended complaint, filed in January 2014, raised the lawsuit claims to $7.5 million, alleging widespread problems with water infiltration, heating, plumbing, electrical, façade, terraces and the roof.

Savanna did not return calls. Lawyers for the board, Savanna and CetraRuddy declined to comment. J Construction and CetraRuddy officials did not return calls.