Trump Org stopped from billing condo owners over amenity, lease deals
Judge presses pause on collection efforts at Trump World Tower
Leave it to a real estate agent to know the boundaries of good condo board behavior.
A New York judge has temporarily stopped residents at Trump World Tower from footing the bill to renovate a commercial space in the building owned by the Trump Organization.
The order comes in response to a lawsuit brought by longtime resident and Compass agent Johanna Beiter, who in May accused the tower’s condo board of improperly agreeing to a $1.75 million amenity project and a ten-year lease of the space with the Trump Organization.
“I love the building,” said Beiter, who has three apartment listings there, at 845 United Nations Plaza in Turtle Bay. “But how do you ignore something when you know it’s not the right thing?”
The renovation would create a lounge and offices from a 2,500-square-foot space where the World Bar once served up $50 cocktails made with liquid gold before closing years ago.
“Upon the court’s initial review of the transaction,” said Robert Braverman, an attorney for Beiter, “it was concerned enough to put a stop to these improperly imposed assessments.”
A hearing in mid-August will determine whether the temporary stay on collecting fees for the project from condo owners will be extended. Bylaws governing the building require residents to approve any expense over $200,000, according to Beiter’s lawsuit.
The board’s decision to undertake the amenity project and lease the space from the Trump Organization arrived to residents through a February letter, which Beiter said was distributed so poorly she only learned of it through another owner who no longer resides in the building.
Besides saddling unsuspecting residents with a new expense, which Beiter said would cost her at least $7,000, the deal seemed unusual to her in other ways.
The lease, for instance, which would generate nearly $2 million for the Trump Organization, was not signed by the condo board president. Instead, it was signed by the only two board members who were appointed by the building’s sponsor, an affiliate of the Trump Organization.
The signatories were Eric Trump, as landlord, and Trump Organization executive, Sonja Talesnik, as tenant. The cozy deal recalls an earlier event at the building, orchestrated by Michael Cohen, in which the Trumps seized control of the board in “a coup that culminated in a standoff” between rival groups of security guards.
When it approved the amenity and lease deals, the Trump World Tower board acted “well within its powers and duties”, condo board attorney William Jaskola wrote in a May exchange with Beiter’s attorneys where he also defended actions taken by Trump and Talesnik.
Jaskola added that the $190,000 lease of the amenity space from the Trump Organization would be paid by condo owners who rent their units as investment properties “since they are deriving income (and profits) from their ownership.” He declined to comment further on the case.
Beiter claims that other owners in the building oppose the project but that the Trumps’ reputation for hard knuckle tactics has kept them in the shadows.
“We are not fighting the Trump name,” insisted Beiter. “If you are trying to take away my rights as the owner, I will oppose it, whether you’re the president or the king — it doesn’t matter.”