In 2012, gallery owner Valerie Dillon received an offer for her stake in a Tribeca apartment building she couldn’t pass up.
Developer Arthur Becker needed Dillon’s stake in the building in order to convert it into a boutique condo project.
In exchange, Dillon didn’t just want money; she wanted the right to buy back her apartment in the converted building for $50,000.
But now, seven years after Dillon moved out of her apartment, Becker — a tech mogul-turned-developer, and the former husband of designer Vera Wang — still hasn’t finished the condo project at 465 Washington Street.
The developer and former resident have been locked in a heated, years-long legal battle over her option to acquire the apartment at the long-delayed project. In the most recent twist, Dillon filed a lawsuit this week in New York State Supreme Court alleging that Becker and his firm, Madison 465 W, have “deliberately delayed satisfying their obligations” of the agreement.
Dillon’s lawyers further claim that the developer has made “strategic delays” to the project, and allege that an offering plan filed with the New York Attorney General’s office last October eliminates Dillon’s option to buy and would make the unit available to the public.
Becker’s attorney, Kevin Fritz of Meister Seelig & Fein, disputed Dillon’s claims.
“Her allegation that Mr. Becker ‘strategically delayed’ renovating the building is belied by the record and defies common sense,” said Fritz.
Fritz said similar claims in a previous lawsuit brought by Dillon were dismissed. He says that in that lawsuit, Dillon submitted an affidavit “acknowledging that any exercise of the option could be rejected by Mr. Becker, and thus we are unclear why she now alleges otherwise.”
According to the new lawsuit, Dillon initially bought the entire third floor of the Washington Street building from developer Peter Moore in 2007 for $1.5 million, and invested another $300,000 into renovating the space. Two years later, Dillon secured a 20 percent interest in 465 Project LLC, the entity that owned the building, from Moore.
But Moore struggled to make his loan payments and ultimately forfeited his interests in that entity to Dillon and another tenant, giving them control of the building.
Dillon later sold her 50 percent stake in the building to Becker, after securing an option agreement to buy back her old apartment.
But for the Tribeca development, he struck out on his own, seeking to build an eight-unit condo with a projected sellout of $52.5 million.
It was set to be completed in 2015, but things did not progress smoothly, according to the complaint. Becker reportedly told Dillon construction would begin in 2013, but by 2019, it was still stalled. Dillon alleges Becker also sought to find another buyer for the building rather than attempt to complete the project. By not finishing it within a certain time frame, Dillon alleges he violated their agreement.
Dillon also alleges that in October 2020, Becker submitted an amended offering plan to the attorney general that, if approved, would allow the developer to sell Dillon’s apartment. Becker allegedly said that he’s expecting approval of the amendment in February 2021.
Dillon is now seeking to obtain the right and title to the apartment.
“The complaint speaks for itself,” said Michael Hanin, an attorney of Kasowitz Benson Torres, who represents Dillon. “Our client is legally entitled to the third floor apartment at 465 Washington Street, and looks forward to her day in court.”