Gregg Singer is suing the city over his 20-year crusade to redevelop a former East Village school into a dormitory. He claims that a “conspiracy” of local elected officials, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Society and hedge fund manager Andrew Berman – who lives next to the school – have illegally blocked the project.
Singer bought the five-story building at 605 East 9th Street in an auction in 1998 and closed on it the next year for $3.15 million. He said he has spent more than $60 million on the effort to convert the 1906 building into a 535-bed dorm, including more than $35 million in interest costs, $5 million in taxes and $5 million in legal fees, the Wall Street Journal reported.
On Wednesday, he filed a lawsuit in federal court that cites emails alleging that the project’s opponents have worked together to thwart the redevelopment.
“This is a case of seller’s remorse as much as it is a case about a vindictive political plot aimed at improperly reclaiming property legally sold by New York City,” the suit read.
But Andrew Berman, director of the GVSHP, called the claims “ludicrous” and said the reason Singer hasn’t been able to get a permit to redevelop the site for the last five or 10 years “is because he hasn’t filed one that is actually legal.”
The project’s detractors want to turn the building into a community center, and say the city was wrong to initially auction it off. Mayor Bill de Blasio in October told a crowd at a community meeting a few weeks before the mayoral election that the sale was a mistake and the city wants to reacquire the building, even though it’s not up for sale.
Adelphi University signed a 10-year lease for two floors in the building last year, Singer said. But the city rejected the application, in part because it questioned where the college – which was founded in 1896 – qualified as an adult trade school, rather than a college or a university. [WSJ] – Rich Bockmann