Park Mansion owner struggles to collect $1.5M in rent from evicted socialite

Billionaire’s ex-wife Libbie Mugrabi says she left UES pad early in pandemic

Libbie Mugrabi and Mitchell Holdings's David Mitchell with 320 East 82nd Street (Getty, Google Maps; Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Libbie Mugrabi and Mitchell Holdings's David Mitchell with 320 East 82nd Street (Getty, Google Maps; Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

This fall, it seemed that justice had finally caught up with a Manhattan socialite who skipped town and the rent on her Upper East Side apartment during the pandemic.

In October, a judge issued an eviction warrant against Libbie Mugrabi, ex-wife of billionaire art dealer David Mugrabi, and a judgment for $158,000 in arrears.

For Mugrabi’s landlord, developer David Mitchell, the win was bittersweet: He said she owed nearly $1.5 million.

Mugrabi’s side of the story is that she moved out two years ago and owes Mitchell nothing, and that he pursued legal action solely to harass her.

The socialite, a party to one of New York’s nastiest divorces in years, quit paying rent on her $28,000 per month apartment at 320 East 82nd Street, better known as the Park Mansion, in April 2020, court filings allege.

When Mitchell filed to evict Mugrabi that August, the socialite was $148,450 behind on rent. But she was shielded by an eviction moratorium and pandemic court closures.

Mugrabi finally responded in May 2021, arguing in court papers that Mitchell had failed to make repairs in her apartment, reducing its rental value to “the sum of zero.” (StreetEasy describes the Park Mansion “a glorious Beaux-Arts building built in 1900 [and] reimagined as a luxury boutique condominium offering full-floor 3-4 bedroom residences, lobby attendant, fitness room, private storage and bicycle storage.”)

Mugrabi also alleged that Mitchell had harassed her — calling her as much as 30 times a day, lingering at her apartment under the guise of “inspecting for repairs” and asking her in August to “take a walk on the beach with him.”

Mugrabi said she had left New York during the pandemic and fallen on “hard times.” On May 11, 2021, the socialite filed a declaration of financial hardship, which staved off eviction.

But months earlier Mugrabi had revealed a very different financial situation, telling the New York Times, “Now I settled a divorce and I have a lot of money” — about $100 million plus homes and pricey artwork — and planned to host a Miami Art Week event “with only A-listers and artists” at the Faena Hotel.

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The socialite said her party would rival “Aby Rosen’s dinners at the W Hotel.”

In a later affidavit, Mugrabi attorney Crystal Villasenor attested that the socialite experienced a significant loss of income because David Mugrabi withheld support payments for at least five months in 2020.

Mitchell’s court filings allege his rent-skipping tenant continued to rack up debt through 2021 and much of this year. In April of 2021, Mitchell lobbed another suit against the socialite, seeking a summary judgment for more than $569,000 in unpaid rent.

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Eight months passed.

Finally, after New York’s eviction moratorium lapsed in January, Mitchell’s attorneys asked the court to calendar the case in March. They pegged Mugrabi’s arrears at nearly $1.3 million, including late fees.

Meanwhile, the socialite, who once called her ex a “starter husband,” had ghosted her attorney.

In June, a housing court judge okayed a request by Villasenor to drop her client. The attorney said she had been unable to reach Mugrabi since October, that her client hadn’t shown up to hearings and, it appeared, had moved out of 320 East 82nd Street.

In October, the court awarded a judgment of $158,400.

Mugrabi contends that she moved out of her apartment two years back. Mitchell’s lawyers disagree.

“I asked her attorney several times, ‘Can you surrender the apartment, and then we can move on to other things?’ She never had authority from Ms. Mugrabi to surrender it,” said Todd Rose, part of the legal team representing the limited liability company that owns the Park Mansion.

Rather, Rose said, a court marshal returned the luxury unit to his client and the $158,400 was withdrawn from Mugrabi’s bank account.

That still leaves around $1.5 million due, by Mitchell’s count. Mugrabi is adamant that she owes nothing. In an email to The Real Deal, she repeated her claim that the landlord harassed her before and after she turned down an advance.

“I owe him no money but he will owe me soon as he will be civilly sued for $10 million in damages to me and my children,” she wrote, adding that she might seek a restraining order.

Mitchell’s attorney noted that Mugrabi has not brought such a complaint. “My client would categorically deny any sexual harassment,” Rose said.

Moving out early does not free a tenant from paying the balance of a lease. But Mitchell’s attempt to collect another $1.5 million has been hampered by the state Supreme Court’s pandemic backlog.

SInce January, Mitchell’s counsel has submitted three separate letters asking the state Supreme Court when a decision might be issued. The first one acknowledged the “considerable strain that the court system is under given the past two years.”

The third, submitted last month, claims Rose’s team hasn’t heard from the court since September 2021.