Three of hotelier David Marx’s projects are under scrutiny after an investigation uncovered that a retired architect who lent his license to the developer never saw the building plans.
Warren Schiffman’s seal and signature are on the designs for the 51-story Aloft hotel project at 450 11th Avenue in Hudson Yards, as well those for a hotel near LaGuardia Airport and a residential project in Queens. Schiffman didn’t have a role in any of those projects, however, according to the New York Times.
The newspaper found a contract between Schiffman and the Queens-based developer arranging for the architect’s credentials to be used. The contract between Marx and Marx’s design firm DSM Design Group, where Schiffman had worked, said DSM could keep using the architect’s seal of approval, despite his 2016 retirement.
Schiffman told the Times he was never asked to review building plans for the three projects.
An addendum to the contract was signed in June 2016. It called for Schiffman to maintain his professional license in exchange for payments amounting to $175,000 through 2027.
The Department of Buildings found no structural defects with the Hudson Yards hotel project, which remains under construction. The airport hotel was completed in 2019, and the Queens project has not been approved.
In December, the agency banned Schiffman from filing building plans after learning he may have been fraudulently re-registered with the state. Then in May, Schiffman admitted during a Department of Education investigation that he practiced architecture while unauthorized, which can mean he allowed his license to be used improperly.. Schiffman then forfeited his license.
The architect initially told the Times he forfeited his license due to his age. He also denied having an agreement with Marx, yet read the newspaper lines from the contract and said he was still getting payments from Marx.
A person who answered the phone Monday at Marx Development Group in Fresh Meadows declined to comment. In recent months, Marx has removed Schiffman’s name from several projects, replacing him with another licensed professional.
New York requires that a registered architect ensure that buildings are property designed and don’t pose a safety risk. If a licensed professional helped an unlicensed person practice the profession or attempted to fraudulently sell a license, the state could consider that a Class E felony.
Paul Newman, a building designer near Albany, was accused several years ago of practicing architecture without a license. He served nearly two years in state prison and was released in 2019.
The attorney general’s office is not investigating Schiffman. It is unclear whether the matter has been referred to prosecutors.
[NYT] — Holden Walter-Warner