Apartment owners chase Ashkenazy over unpaid bills

Condo, co-op owners say investor owes hundreds of thousands for retail spaces

Apartment Owners Sue Ben Ashkenazy

Ben Ashkenazy along with 360 West 21st Street and 141 East 88th Street (Getty, Google Maps)

Ben Ashkenazy’s business partners are used to his brand of hardball. He has, after all, gone scorched-earth on the Gindi family and secretly recorded the lender on his Union Station property in Washington, D.C.

But now some Manhattan apartment owners are finding out what it’s like to tussle with the investor.

Homeowners on the Upper East Side and Chelsea say they’re being forced to shoulder higher costs at their buildings because Ashkenazy refuses to pay his bills, lawsuits show. 

Owners who spoke to The Real Deal on the condition of anonymity said they understand the difficulty real estate investors are facing now.  But they expect that Ashkenazy — with a reported net worth of $2.6 billion — would be more sympathetic to the pain he’s causing to their personal finances.

At the luxury Philip House condominium in Carnegie Hill, the condo board is in a drawn-out legal battle with Ashkenazy Acquisitions over the building’s retail spaces.

Ashkenazy paid $17 million in 2014 to buy the six retail units at the base of the building along Lexington Avenue, where tenants include a FedEx Office location, a branch of the Patis Bakery chain and a Pure Barre studio.

But the investor stopped paying his common charges in 2020, according to the condo board, which sued the following year to collect on arrears that had grown to nearly $139,000 as of February 2022.

Ashkenazy “has failed and refused to pay certain common charges, late fees, interest and other charges,” wrote attorneys for the 69-unit building at 141 East 88th Street, where a 4-bedroom apartment is currently listed for $6.8 million.

Attorneys for the building did not respond to a request for comment. The judge in the case granted the board an order in December 2022 to foreclose on the condos, but there appears to have been no movement since.

One explanation for the inactivity may be that Ashkenazy’s lender is also wrestling with him in court. The lender, whose members include Isaac Aryeh, is trying to foreclose on the retail condos. 

The judge in December appointed a receiver to oversee the property, who said in court records that Ashkenazy has failed to turn over rents and security deposits, and has asked the court to hold him in contempt.

“It is clear that defendants have no intent of fully complying with this court’s order and. . . should be held in contempt,” the receiver wrote. “Defendants must be compelled to account for and turn over the security deposits and additional rents received from the tenants.”

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Ashkenazy’s attorney, Kevin Nash, wrote in an email that the rents were inadvertently paid to Ashkenazy, who promptly returned them.

“There is no merit to the contempt motion. When the court hears the matter in February, we will be vindicated,” he wrote, adding that now that the property is in receivership, it’s up to the receiver to make common charge payments to the condo board.

Homeowners at a small co-op building in Chelsea are facing a similar situation.

The board at the Cheltoncort co-op at 360 West 21st Street filed in November to evict an Ashkenazy entity, which rents the building’s retail spaces.

The board of the 55-unit building said the investor owes nearly $560,000.

One of the co-op owners told TRD each owner is being forced to pay a couple hundred dollars each month in order to cover the rent income shortfall.

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A spokesperson for Ashkenazy said he is a limited partner and owns a minority share.

“The lack of payment is the responsibility of a larger syndicate,” the spokesperson said.

Ashkenazy has been struggling lately on a number of properties.

Earlier this year he lost one of his trophy properties at 625 Madison Avenue in foreclosure to SL Green Realty. He also battled his partner, the German guarantor Deka Immobilien Investment GmbH, on their New York Marriott East Side hotel. He also recently lost his Chelsea property that had once been home to the original Barneys department store.