Celebrity property group caught in $11M construction dispute

Georgetown Co. has been renovating a West Side building, whose 2 ground-floor car dealership operators filed for bankruptcy

Bill Ackman, LeBron James, and Arnold Schwarzenegger with 787 11th Avenue (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)
Bill Ackman, LeBron James, and Arnold Schwarzenegger with 787 11th Avenue (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)

A Manhattan building that counts LeBron James and Arnold Schwarzenegger among its investors is now the subject of a messy and expensive construction dispute.

Georgetown Company has been renovating the building at 787 11th Avenue in recent years, according to Crain’s — a plan that involved erecting two new floors and an outdoor tennis court.

But things got messy when the operator of two car dealerships on the ground floor filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The move led to litigation between contractors and the ownership group, which also includes hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, according to the report.

The contractors reportedly placed $11 million of mechanic’s liens against the building in an effort to recover money they claimed to be owed for the construction of the dealerships.

In countersuits, Georgetown and Nissan — the leaseholder of the dealerships — said the contractors were “engaged in a coordinated scheme to execute a fraudulent lien waiver to obtain millions of dollars.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Manhattan Mechanical Contractors, which installs heating and air conditioning services, renewed its lien in court on Dec. 30.

Manhattan Mechanical’s attorney, Manny Frade, said Georgetown and Nissan had “tried to get the case dismissed, but those motions were denied, and this case appears to be heading to trial.”

Mechanic’s liens have been on the uptick in New York City in recent years, attorney Stuart Zisholtz told Crain’s, and owners are often caught in the middle.

“Sometimes the landlord might not be directly at fault, but the contractor has to file a mechanic’s lien anyway because that’s their only legal recourse,” he said.

A spokesperson from Georgetown later contacted TRD with a statement that said the dispute was “between a former tenant and its contractor, with no direct relationship to the landlord”.

“Ownership will continue to defend its interests as a third party to this dispute,” they said. [Crain’s] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan