Retailer puts a wrench into Empire’s plans for NoMad hotel

NY Top Brands claims it is being forcibly evicted from 296 Fifth Avenue
By David Jones | October 30, 2014 08:00AM

Ronald Domb’s Empire Hotel Group is seeking to tear down a building at 296 Fifth Avenue and build a 20-story hotel there, but one of the NoMad building’s current retail tenants is looking to stay put.

Footwear retailer NY Top Brands will face off in Manhattan Supreme Court next month with lawyers for Empire. Justice George Silver ordered a Nov. 17 hearing on whether NY Top Brands can resolve a default notice issued by Empire at 296 Fifth Avenue. The notice alleges that the retailer failed to maintain proper business interruption insurance.

Lawyers for the retailer, in a complaint filed Oct. 15, said that it has a valid seven-year ground lease for its first-floor space at 296 Fifth Avenue. The retailer claims that its lease doesn’t expire until March 2018.

Executives at NY Top Brands claim they thought they had adequate insurance when they signed the lease with the prior owner, C&K. They allege that Domb only brought the suit to kick them out following his $10.5 million purchase of the site, which also includes 292 and 294 Fifth Avenue.

“The defendant’s sole motivation in serving the notice of default is to dispossess and divest the plaintiff of a valuable commercial lease, which is the landlord’s last standing impediment to tearing down the subject building and constructing a building likely to be joined with two adjacent buildings, which are also owned by the landlord,” said Jay Chehab, president of NY Top Brands, in a sworn affidavit.

The proposed 52,000-square-foot hotel would have 130 rooms as well as 12 residential units on top, according to plans filed with the Department of Buildings in February

Attorney Jared Kassenoff, who represents the landlord, declined to comment. Lawyers for NY Top Brands were not immediately available for comment. Domb was not immediately available for comment.