Harlem condo board takes developer to task over alleged construction gaffes

The Lenox condominium at 380 Lenox Avenue
The Lenox condominium at 380 Lenox Avenue

For the buyers at one of Harlem’s first market-rate condominium projects, the living quarters haven’t matched expectations.

The board of managers of the Lenox condo building at 380 Lenox Avenue in Upper Manhattan is suing the former sponsor, an entity controlled by Lewis Futterman’s Uptown Partners, over claims that the property is riddled with building code violations and rife with construction defects. The board also claims that Futterman has attempted to defraud the board and avoid facing liability over the alleged construction failures.

The suit was filed Dec. 31 in New York State Supreme Court.

Futterman declined to comment, except to say that the issue was between the residents and the construction company which built the project.

To the board, however, it was the developer who failed to provide residents who bought off floor plans in 2006 with units that met the guidelines of the original offering plan. Indeed, the building has fundamental structural flaws, a defective roof and pervasive leakage, the board claims.

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Thus far, unit owners have ponied up $260,000 for repairs, but an additional $4 million is required to complete the necessary work, according to the complaint. As a result, the board is seeking a judgment against the sponsor for damages for fraud and breach of contract, and seeking at least $4 million.

The 77-unit, 12-story building initially launched sales in 2006, when 42 of the units sold, but the sponsors soon fell into financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. Sales relaunched when the sponsor came to a deal with its lender in 2011.

Futterman and the sponsorship entity did not try to rectify construction problems after the residents complained as early as 2010, according to the complaint.

In another twist, the board alleges that Futterman attempted to defraud buyers by transferring ownership of unsold sponsor units from the sponsorship entity to Uptown in December 2012 in a bid to put him beyond the reach of the board. Without the units in the sponsor’s name, the sponsorship entity would be unable to pay any judgments to the board.

“Uptown partners and the sponsor is one and the same,” said Andrea Roschelle, the attorney for the board. “This is a scheme to make sure that the condo unit owners are going to have to pay for these repairs when, in fact, it’s the responsibility of the sponsor.”

Futterman, the complaint claims, actually lives in the building and has been heard to complain about the construction problems himself, including leaks in his own unit from the dodgy roof.

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