MTA: We gave builder a break, then he sued us

Agency appeals ruling allowing Manhattan hotel project to continue

50 Trinity Place (Credit: Google Maps)
50 Trinity Place (Credit: Google Maps)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is firing back against a judge’s order allowing construction of a Manhattan hotel to continue. It is also accusing a developer of being “selfish” and ungratefully suing after the transit agency cut it a break — a charge the builder refutes.

The agency plans to appeal the March ruling preventing the MTA from halting work at 50 Trinity Place, a 173-key hotel being developed by FIT Investment.

The MTA had ordered work to stop at the project, in an effort to force FIT to remove a construction fence in front of its property, according to a lawsuit filed by the developer. The MTA has argued that the fence precludes construction of a subway elevator being built by a neighboring developer, Trinity Place Holdings.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Suzanne J. Adams ruled in FIT’s favor March 25, granting a preliminary injunction preventing the MTA from enforcing a stop-work order while the developer’s lawsuit is ongoing.

The judge also disagreed with the MTA’s interpretation of the state’s public authorities law, which the agency argued allows it to occupy city streets — in this case, where the fence is — for construction purposes. The judge found that the law doesn’t apply in this case because a private developer, not the MTA, is paying for and constructing the elevator.

In a statement to The Real Deal on Monday, the agency noted that it relieved FIT of its obligation to build an elevator at its property, shifting the responsibility over to Trinity Place Holdings.

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“The developer of 50 Trinity is selfishly obstructing efforts to make the subway system accessible to New Yorkers living with disabilities, in the heart of the job-rich lower Manhattan business district,” Tim Minton, a spokesperson for the MTA, said in a statement.
“But rather than helping us and their neighbors to get the job done, 50 Trinity has blocked the MTA and 42 Trinity from building the elevator with more than a year of stalling, empty promises and excuses.”

Attorneys for FIT said their client never requested to be relieved of the responsibility to build the elevator. Rather, they said, conduits along Trinity Place prevented the developer from constructing the device on its property. Instead, FIT is building out a mechanical room for the MTA.

The developer’s attorneys said the MTA is taking a “bite off your nose to spite your face” approach and questioned whether the agency was prioritizing accessibility of its stations. Stalling construction of the mechanical room at 50 Trinity Place will only hold up progress on the elevator, they said.

“[The MTA’s argument] ignores the fact that we are actually part of the public improvement, that we’ve dedicated a large part of our cellar to the MTA in perpetuity,” said Herrick’s Brendan Schmitt.

The next chapter of this fight over FIT’s construction fence will likely have to wait, as most non-criminal court functions have been put on hold. Construction at 50 Trinity has been halted by a statewide ban on non-essential work.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at