ZD Jasper sues neighbor for obstructing West Side project

Developer accuses next-door walkup’s owners of “fishing expedition” and “highly unusual” requests

ZD Jasper's Jasper Wu and 437-439 W 36th Street
ZD Jasper's Jasper Wu and 437-439 W 36th Street (ZD Jasper, Google Maps)

Tom Wu’s ZD Jasper has amassed a sizable portfolio of glassy highrises in Jamaica and Long Island City, but its first foray into Manhattan is causing a stir in Hell’s Kitchen.

The developer is suing its neighbor on West 36th Street, where it plans to replace a two-story warehouse with a 12-story apartment building, claiming the neighbor was “feigning cooperation” while dragging its feet on consenting to the demolition.

ZD Jasper has received all necessary approvals from the Department of Buildings for the 52-unit project at 439 West 36th Street, as well as a demolition permit, according to court documents. It struck agreements with each of its neighbors to pursue the demolition — all except the owners of the six-story apartment building next door at 437 West 36th Street, with whom ZD Jasper has been in negotiations for more than a year.

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The developer claims it’s endured six rounds of turbulent meetings with the building’s owners, identified only as 437 West 36th Street LLC. This included a request for a $4 million licensing fee from a Cushman & Wakefield broker who purported to represent the owners, as well as a “highly unusual” request by the neighbor’s attorney, Joanna Peck, to visit the construction site in a “potential fishing expedition,” the complaint alleges.

ZD Jasper says it’s bowed to numerous other requests made by the building’s owner, including altering the demolition and monitoring plans and paying a $5,000 per month license fee. ZD Jasper has also deposited $20,000 in escrow as a security, according to court documents.

Yet the neighbor still has not signed off on the demolition. The debacle has sent the developers into the arms of the court in an attempt to override that requirement altogether, requesting permission from the judicial system to conduct a survey on the non-compliant neighbor’s property and to open a 24-month demolition period at the site of its planned building.

The site is just one of many that ZD Jasper is eyeing on Manhattan’s West Side. The firm owns multiple other properties on the same block, including 430-434 West 37th Street, where it recently filed plans for a separate apartment project, and 429 West 36th Street.

ZD Jasper, Cushman & Wakefield and 437 West 36th Street LLC’s lawyer, Peck, did not respond to requests for comment.