Lone hold-out puts kink in HAP’s West 187th Street plans

Firm fails in bid to buy last parcel for development, but says project not “materially affected"

HAP's Eran Polack and a rendering of the West 187th Street development
HAP's Eran Polack and a rendering of the West 187th Street development

HAP Investment Developers’ plans for a lilac-hued rental building on West 187th Street have hit a snag.

First announced in November 2013, the Karim Rashid-designed building was to have 100 units at 653-667 West 187th Street. But HAP was missing a key piece of the assemblage: the deed to 653 West 187th Street.

In fact, public records show investors Dan Rubin and Joshua Haller paid $195,000 for the property, currently a vacant lot, in March 2014. “If HAP wants to buy it, they are welcome to buy it. We are equal opportunity sellers,” said Rubin, who is the property’s majority owner with a 75 percent ownership stake. Rubin and Haller are now looking to sell the property for $600,000.

For now, it doesn’t look like HAP plans to buy the missing parcel. “We were not able to reach an agreement with the owner of 653 West 187th Street to purchase that site, which is a very small parcel,” CEO Eran Polack said in a statement provided to The Real Deal. “The HAP 4 project, which encompasses the six parcels of 655-667 West 187th Street, will not at all be materially affected.”

Still, the developer was apparently marketing the project using the address 653 West 187th Street until Monday, when the address on the firm’s website changed to 655 West 187th. And, it appears HAP is moving forward with a scaled-back plan to erect a 47-unit building, according to plans for 655 West 187th filed with the Department of Buildings. The developer’s website describes 59 units.

According to property records, HAP has assembled property on both sides of 653 West 187th Street – and nearly bought 653 in 2012 for $10,000 less than the current owners paid.

HAP forked over $4.75 million in November 2012 for an assemblage to the left of the property, including 655, 657, 661, 663 and 667 West 187th Street. HAP also paid $600,000 for 659 West 187th in September 2012 and bought 284 Wadsworth Avenue for $250,000 in September 2014, public records show.

As for 653 West 187th, in August 2012 a deed hit public records indicating that HAP paid owners Roberto and Lupita Rodriguez $185,000 for the land. For unknown reasons, a correction deed was filed in April 2013, the purpose of which was “to correct an erroneous conveyance of the premises which was purported to have been made.”

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A lawyer for the Rodriguezes did not return a call seeking comment. But the couple subsequently re-listed the property for $265,000, and accepted Rubin and Haller’s offer for $195,000.

Rubin claims HAP has attempted to purchase the property from him. “HAP started trying to buy it from us as soon as I went under contract,” said Rubin. He said HAP’s most recent offer, made this summer, was for $275,000, an amount he and Haller turned down. “We think the property is worth quite a bit more,” said Rubin.

According to property records, Rubin owns two other single-family homes in Upper Manhattan, having paid $526,000 for 563 West 182nd Street in June 2013 and $475,000 for 392 Audobon Avenue in August 2012.

His real estate career stretches back to the 1990s, when he flipped distressed homes near Princeton University, where he was enrolled at the time. Rubin later bought the legal-referral company 1-800ATTORNEY in Lake Helen, Fla. and started Rubin Investment Group. In 2003, he was arrested and charged with securities fraud and conspiracy, stemming from allegations that his company drove up stock prices of struggling companies. Rubin pled guilty in 2007.

Over the summer, Rubin said he came close to selling the lot at 653 West 187th for $525,000 to a buyer shielded by an LLC. Rubin claims he’s also offered HAP a “swap,” whereby he would transfer 653 West 187th Street in exchange for 284 Wadsworth, along with the Wadsworth property’s air rights.

Rubin acknowledged that, “By them building their building, they’re going to make our land more valuable.” The supporting wall closest to his property alone is worth $100,000, he argues.

“I’m not against it,” he said. “I also don’t want to compete with them.”

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