Battle intensifies over Meatpacking building with $28M in debt

Would-be investor claims recent transfer document is invalid

The East Village investment company DelShah Capital announced Monday that it had acquired the title to a Meatpacking District property that insiders say defaulted on loans totaling about $27.5 million. But today, a rival company that has negotiated a joint venture agreement with one of the owners of the commercial property at 55 Gansevoort Street — and also wants to take control of the building — told The Real Deal that the purported property transfer was invalid.

“They said they bought the building,” Jeffrey Menaged, a principal with Manhattan-based Orbis Capital Advisors, “[But] it is not possible.”

Orbis, based in Lower Manhattan, has negotiated but not finalized an agreement with Robert Romanoff as a trustee of the entity that owns the building, GHC NY Corp., to inject cash and pay off the defaulted loan. Yet DelShah has not responded to attempts by Orbis and Romanoff to pay off the loan, Menaged says, and now has claimed to have taken title to the property.

An attorney for DelShah, William F. Savino, a partner with law firm Damon Morey, said the deed was bona fide, and pointed to court records supporting that claim.

In addition, a source familiar with DelShah’s thinking said Orbis and Romanoff made a $33 million offer for the building, which DelShah is “willing to entertain,” but that the Orbis and Romanoff group has not responded to.

“That’s not true at all. Robert Romanoff has the statutory right to pay off the loan,” Menaged said. “He wishes to pay off the loan. He doesn’t have to pay a premium.”

The property and its owners are mired in more than a half-dozen lawsuits and landlord-tenant disputes in Manhattan courts, adding to the confusion and intrigue over the building.

The five-story, 26,000-square-foot Building Between Ninth Avenue And Washington Street, built just after the turn of the 20th century is owned by members of the Romanoff family, but the property is weighed down by a first mortgage, a second mortgage and a personal loan all in default and totaling about $27.5 million, according to a source familiar with the building.

DelShah Capital purchased the defaulted mortgages on March 29, 2012, city records show. Then on August 6, the company announced it had obtained title on July 20. A representative for DelShah sent an copy of the deed to TRD, signed by Gerald Romanoff, as evidence of the transfer.

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However, Menaged said Gerald Romanoff was not a legitimate signatory and not able to transfer title, because the property is held in a trust co-controlled by his son Robert and one other non-family member. Only they can sign on behalf of the trust, Menaged said. As proof, Menaged provided TRD with a copy of the Sheryl Romanoff Irrevocable Grantor Trust agreement from November 2009, which identifies Robert and another individual as the sole trustees.

Menaged said the trust controls the property’s actual ownership entity, known as GHC NY Corp.

But Savino rejected that claim, and said Gerald actually is the sole director of GHC NY, and in addition has the power to vote on behalf of Robert through proxies giving him that power.

“Over the past year, Robert has repeatedly on multiple instances attempted to thwart the transaction, but no judge has given him relief,” Savino said.

Savino pointed to Comments By New York State Supreme Court judge Anil Singh, who in a June 22 court hearing about a lawsuit brought by Robert against his father, gave authority for control of the building to Gerald. Robert’s attorneys filed notice to appeal that decision last month, court records show.

Gerald Romanoff could not immediately be reached for comment.

As further evidence that the deed was not valid, Menaged pointed to a transcript from another one of the active court cases. New York State Supreme Court judge, O. Peter Sherwood, said on July 31 that any transfer of title would have to come before his court, and no transfer had been brought to him.

Savino said Sherwood would not have to approve that transfer.