Questions surround Ira Shapiro’s role in church condo plan

Sister signed deed to buy Crenshaw Christian Center East; developer still owes creditors millions

A landmark Upper West Side church, slated for a luxury condominium project backed by former One Madison Park developer Ira Shapiro, was purchased by his sister, The Real Deal has learned. The developer has creditors still trying to collect on millions of dollars in judgments connected to the controversial former project.

Irene Shapiro, a principal with a firm called Hartford CP Management, signed the deed in June to buy the church, known as the Crenshaw Christian Center East at 361 Central Park West, for $26 million, according to documents filed with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Brooklyn investor Joseph Brunner, who according to sources, was introduced to Shapiro after he grew concerned about his own ability to get financing, and then entered an agreement with Ladder Capital to finance the deal. Ladder Capital is a commercial real estate finance company based in Manhattan.

Sources familiar with the Central Park West agreement say that Shapiro, by presenting himself as a consultant has downplayed his involvement in the project to obtain financing and protect himself from further litigation.

Sources say that Shapiro recruited Lawrence ‘Chip’ Porter, a managing director at Newmark Knight Grubb Frank, to find the church as an off-market property for the condo project.

“He is very much involved with the project on Central Park West and is not merely a consultant,” said one industry source with knowledge of the deal. “He’s just hiding his assets from numerous creditors.”

Shapiro, in an interview with The Real Deal, claimed that he was unaware that Irene Shapiro had signed a deed connected to the church, but did confirm that she was his sister. He said he’s already paid off $7.2 million to creditors at One Madison Park and said he only has a few more lenders left to go.

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“I have been settling with the creditors and making payments,” Shapiro said,

He added that he won’t be part of the sponsor group for the new condominium. “My role in this is purely consulting,” he said.

As The Real Deal previously reported, One Madison Park, the luxury condo project at 23 East 22nd Street, was thrown into involuntary bankruptcy protection by creditors in 2010 after lender iStar Financial filed to foreclose on the project. The sponsors, including Shapiro and Marc Jacobs (not the fashion designer of the same name), were unable to pay back millions in private loans and mechanics liens.

Sources claim that Shapiro is in the hole by more than $100 million and distanced himself from the project in order to shield his assets from creditors. Documents filed with the Department of Buildings have Irene Shapiro as the main contact for the condo project. She also signed the original contract to buy the church in July 2013 under the Hartford CP Management name, with an address of 18 West 21st Street in Manhattan. Ira Shapiro is listed as a member of the firm. He told The Real Deal that he was consulting through that same company and has a connection with the same firm.

Shapiro and his wife Heather are currently facing a $4.5 million lawsuit filed by Mad 52, an entity controlled by billionaire investor Ian Bruce Eichner, against their homes at 1 Appleton Road in New City, N.Y., and 133 Egypt Lane in East Hampton, N.Y. PropertyShark records show a lis pendens filed in December 2013 against the East Hampton property both from Mad 52, and a second lien filed in January 2013 by U.S. Bank.

Hudson City Savings Bank filed suit in April 2013 to foreclose on a $500,000 loan at their 1 Appleton Road property in New City home in Rockland County.

Brunner and Irene Shapiro did not return calls. A spokesperson for the AG declined to comment. Porter declined to comment.