Neil Binder’s Bellmarc Realty is at risk of losing its last remaining Manhattan office.
The residential brokerage, already rocked by mass agent defections, lawsuits and financial challenges, allegedly owes $202,357 in unpaid rent at 936 Broadway, according to a complaint filed by First Sterling Corp., which owns the building’s commercial condominium.
The Great Neck-based First Sterling initially filed suit in December in an attempt to collect three months’ rent, which it said amounted to $67,945. In a March 3 court filing, the landlord said the amount of unpaid rent plus fees had grown to $202,357.
The suit names Austin St. Associates Inc., which does business as Bellmarc Realty and signed a lease for retail space at 936 Broadway in 2004. Binder personally guaranteed the original lease, according to court documents.
In court documents, an attorney for Bellmarc portrayed the outcome of the dispute as “existentially critical” for the brokerage.
“In an effort to cut costs, in response to financial duress, [Bellmarc] has closed all of its offices except the one that is the subject of this proceeding.” The possibility of eviction and “loss of its last remaining place of business would be more than devastating.”
For his part, Binder claims Sterling failed to correct a “noxious condition” in the office, he told The Real Deal in an email. Specifically, he said, the building’s heating system caused “excessive heat” in Bellmarc’s office, and forced the firm to install and maintain an expensive air conditioning system. Bellmarc is claiming $641,741 in damages, according to court documents.
The dispute comes amid ongoing financial woes for Binder and, by extension, Bellmarc.
In August 2014, the brokerage was evicted from its office at 681 Lexington Avenue, as TRD reported. In January, it shuttered four offices across Manhattan, leaving it with the single location at 936 Broadway.
In a separate lawsuit also filed in December, Bellmarc’s former landlord at 1178 Lexington Avenue is also seeking money from the brokerage.
In its petition, the landlord – identified in court documents as 120 East 81st Street Corp. – claimed it is owed $72,587 in unpaid rent between September and December. Bellmarc’s base rent was $23,842 a month, according to the suit.
In an affidavit, Binder contends the landlord was “unhappy” with Bellmarc because it repeatedly made late rental payments. In August 2015, as per Binder, the building’s manager exclaimed, “I want you out!”
That comment served as Bellmarc’s notice that it had to vacate the office, according to Binder. As a result, he said, “this proceeding was improperly brought as a non-payment proceeding because the lease had already been terminated by the landlord a few months earlier in August.”
Last month, Binder sparred with Capital One Bank in court, after the bank asked a judge to appoint a receiver in an attempt to collect a $580,000 debt. Binder argued that a receiver could force him into bankruptcy and could lead to Bellmarc’s demise.