Tenants band together to fight developer at 360 CPW

J-51 status subject of court fight
By David Jones | October 28, 2014 05:30PM

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman received complaints against a New York City developer who filed suit to deregulate 20 apartments at an Upper West Side condo conversion that previously received J-51 tax benefits, according to court papers obtained by The Real Deal.

Lawyers for 20 tenants at 360 Central Park West, a 146-unit building located between West 94th and West 95th streets, disclosed the complaints in an Oct. 23 filing in Manhattan Supreme Court motion to consolidate and dismiss a series of lawsuits filed in July by Argo Real Estate. Argo claimed that 20 of the rent-stabilized apartments at the building should be designated market-rate.

In February, lawyers for the 360 Central Park West Tenants Association contacted Assistant Attorney General Judith Kaufman, according to court documents. They alleged that Argo had misrepresented the status of the individual apartments when the condo plan was released in December 2013.

Lawyers  for the tenants’ claim that their clients were illegally designated in the offering plan as living in market-rate apartments, according to court filings. They allege the landlord kept them in the dark about the building receiving J-51 tax benefits from 1999 to 2010, alleging that the leases never mentioned of the fact that the building was receiving those benefits, according court filings. Following the initial complaint to the AG, the developer filed court papers against the 20 tenants seeking to have the units deregulated.

Attorney William Gribben, a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph who is representing the tenants, told TRD that such a declaration would make it easier for the landlord to empty those apartments.

“Whenever their leases would expire they would be subject to eviction,” Gribben said. “They would not be entitled to any kind of insider price.”

The 17-floor Rosario Candela-designed building, originally developed in 1929, has two towers and incorporates the Second Scotch Presbyterian Church chapel, according to StreetEasy.

According to the schedule of prices found in court documents, a four-and-a-half-bedroom penthouse apartment measuring 1,277 square feet, would go for $3.1 million.

According to court filings, the October 2013 offering plan stated that as of September 2013, the building had 146 apartments, including 44 rent-stabilized units, 10 rent-controlled units, 69 market-rate units and 20 vacant units.  The building was receiving more than $384,000 in monthly rent.

“We’re still reviewing the papers, but we disagree with the tenants’ claims,” said attorney Steven Kirkpatrick, who represents Argo. He said they would submit papers to oppose the motions.

A spokesperson for Argo did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for AG’s office declined to comment on whether there was any formal investigation of the case, but confirmed that the offering plan had been submitted, but not yet formally accepted.