Tentative deal reached to sell Windermere
Following five months of litigation from state and city regulators, sources say that Toa Construction has reached a tentative deal to sell the landmark Windermere apartment building on the Far West Side.
The Tokyo-based developer is also negotiating a deal with its former tenants, who were evacuated in 2007 by the New York City Fire Department due to unsafe conditions at the building, located at 400-406 West 57th Street.
“Since then we have been engaged in a court battle with Toa Construction to fix the building,” said Bennett Baumer, a tenant organizer with Housing Conservation Coordinators, a non-profit based in the Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton section of Manhattan, which has provided legal assistance to the Windermere tenants.
Baumer said the 2007 evacuation stemmed from major structural problems at the building, and vandals have since demolished parts of the building with sledgehammers and the property has become infested with pigeons. Records from the city Department of Housing Preservation & Development show 649 violations at the building, ranging from exposed wires to water leaks and piles of garbage.
Terms of the agreement were not immediately available, however sources confirmed that as recently as 2007 a number of organizations and individual investors had approached Toa Construction about buying the property for as much as $40 million.
Evan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Common Ground, a Manhattan-based advocacy group for the homeless, confirmed that his organization met with principals of the company in Tokyo in 2007, but were unable to reach an agreement on a deal.
A spokesperson for the New York City Law Department declined to comment, and referred inquiries about the possible sale to Toa Construction’s attorney, Adam Kaiser at Dewey & Lebouf. Kaiser was not immediately available for comment.
The sale of the Windermere would end years of legal wrangling over the 128-year-old complex, which received landmark status in 2005 and was once the home of screen legend Steve McQueen.
In May 2008, state Supreme Court Judge Karen Smith ordered an injunction against Toa Construction, to compel the owner, Masako Yamagata, to repair the property, which city officials said had been neglected for two decades.
The buildings department on Feb. 9, 2009 issued an emergency declaration regarding falling bricks and other unsafe conditions at the building, and two days later, HPD awarded a $12,000 contract to Monte United to repair deteriorating mortar and loose bricks.
Meanwhile, attorney Steven Sieratski filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against Toa Construction in October 2008, alleging his former client had failed to pay him more than $291,000 in legal fees after representing the firm from 2006 to 2008. Reached by telephone, Sieratski declined to comment on the Windermere or his relationship with Toa Construction.