The Real Deal New York

Not dead yet: New York Wheel deadline extended to Sept. 11

Uncertainty around project’s future leaves EB-5 investors in limbo
By Eddie Small and David Jeans | September 04, 2018 05:15PM

The fate of the New York Wheel project will now be determined on Sept. 11. (Credit: iStock)

The New York Wheel will live on for at least one more week.

The developers and contractor Mammoet-Starneth reached an agreement in early May that gave them 120 days to find a way to move forward on the project or put a permanent end to it.

Although this deadline was originally set for Sept. 5, it has now been pushed back to at least Sept. 11 as the parties work to negotiate an amendment to the agreement, according to a spokesperson for the New York Wheel.

“The New York Wheel is in the process of negotiating an amendment to the settlement agreement, including extending the standstill period,” the spokesperson said.

The New York Wheel has been plagued by difficulties and setbacks for years.

Since 2012, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg first unveiled the plan to the public, its cost has ballooned from $250 million to roughly $600 million, and Mammoet-Starneth walked off of the site last May after saying the soil could not support the structure.

The developer fired Mammoet-Starneth soon after, and the contractor filed for bankruptcy in December. In February, the developers agreed to pay $460,000 to help cover storage costs for some parts of the wheel.

A representative for Mammoet-Starneth declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the operating entity’s leadership has seen its share of troubles. Meir Laufer, the CEO of Plaza Capital Management, and Eric Kaufman, a developer and former Colliers International broker, first teamed up on the project. The partnership at one point grew to include the Feil Organization’s Andrew Ratner and Jay Anderson, BLDG Management’s Lloyd Goldman and Joseph Nakash, co-founder of Jordache Enterprises. But later on, legal battles ensued as Laufer and Kaufman claimed some of their partners attempted to dilute their shares.

Most recently, Rich Marin stepped down as CEO of NY Wheel in February. Its new management structure and the amount of money it will need to continue were not immediately clear.

The wheel is one of many EB-5 projects across the U.S. mired in controversy that has left investors in limbo. Regional center Canam Enterprises has raised $206 million from 412 EB-5 investors for the project, according to the firm’s website.

If the project doesn’t move forward, it would be among the biggest EB-5 failures.

“The jobs are not created, and then the investors are denied their EB-5 visa, basically,” said Min Chan, a New York-based EB-5 attorney. “There will be 400 people completely disappointed and have to find a new project.”

The Real Deal reported earlier this year that some Chinese EB-5 investors, facing long wait times for green cards, were asking for their money back from certain projects altogether. The program is facing a major backlog in applications, resulting in up to 15-year wait times for visas.