Deeds and Deals

Markowitz Claims Jitney for Brooklyn

It all started with Marty Markowitz:

“For too long, Brooklyn vacationers headed for the Hamptons had to trek into Manhattan to catch a bus traveling to those beautiful beaches—but that ritual is about to change.”

The Brooklyn borough president went on to announce in his spring newsletter that Hampton Jitney would start, this spring, direct service from at least one stop in Brooklyn to the North and South Forks of Long Island’s East End. So far, the bus company runs city stops only from the East Side of Manhattan, and from Flushing, Queens.

Now, for the first time in the Jitney’s 33-year history, Brooklynites will be able to go eastward on Fridays and westward on Sundays. No firm schedule has been set, though.

Still, it’s all part of Mr. Markowitz’s grand plans for the Borough of Kings. “It’s also yet another example of how businesses are recognizing that to make it bigtime,” he wrote in his newsletter, “you’ve gotta make it in Brooklyn.”

—Matthew Schuerman

Nobody’s Apprentice: Ivanka Nixes N.Y.U. Class

Ivanka Trump is just too busy these days to learn about the infrastructure of skyscrapers. The vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization has dropped the construction class that she was taking at New York University because it didn’t fit into her hectic schedule.

The course, “Construction Methods and Materials: Building Core and Shell,” is offered through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and focuses on the construction components of high-rise buildings. It is a non-credit course that is usually taught out of N.Y.U.’s Midtown Center at 11 West 42nd Street.

Sources say that Ivanka—who, to her credit, is working on new Trump developments in Chicago and Dubai—wasn’t necessarily the model student, only making two classes this term.

—Mark Wellborn

Your Wallet Has No Chance On the Upper East Side

Barnard students conducted an experiment: They dropped 132 wallets in neighborhoods spanning the Bronx to Brooklyn, and recorded what happened. In which neighborhood were people likeliest to steal the wallets? Why, the Upper East Side, of course!

Of all the nabes that the students went to—which included Chelsea, Crown Heights, the Upper East Side, Harlem, City Hall and a Bronx college—the Upper East Side was the only place where the wallets were stolen twice. One student reported that an Upper East Side woman holding a bouquet of pink roses “picked up the wallet, did not look around at all, and simply kept on walking.”

Other than the Upper East Side being very shady, what’s the moral of this story? New Yorkers are good Samaritans! In 82 percent of the cases, the wallet was returned; in 13 percent, it was simply unseen by passers-by; in 3 percent, a person tried to return it but failed; and in only a mere 2 percent did someone actually steal it.

So the next time you’re headed uptown on the No. 6 train, remember: hands in both pockets.

—John Koblin

Kent Swig Offers Civics Lesson

The developer Kent Swig was already half an hour late to a meeting on March 21, but he had just received a court decision that made it worth his while to share a civics lesson with a reporter.

“Basically the judicial system in this country, the way it was created, is that the governor and legislature create laws, and the judicial system interprets laws,” he said into his cell phone while going up in an office-building elevator. “This is the judicial system creating laws. There is no law for what this decision says.”

A day earlier, a housing-court judge had quashed Mr. Swig’s attempt to evict 23 households from the Sheffield57, a West 57th Street apartment building that he is converting into condos. The tenants were paying market-rate rents and their leases had expired, so the decision has the potential to be a thorn not only in Mr. Swig’s side, but in the flanks of many a converter in the future—if it stands up.

A spokesman for Mr. Swig said on Tuesday that an appeal would be filed “in the next few days.”

Landlords have long been unable to clear out a building before a conversion, in a process called “warehousing.” The state statute governing conversions, the Martin Act, also requires owners to give existing market-rate tenants renewal leases once a conversion is declared effective. Now, thanks to Judge David B. Cohen, they will not be able to kick them out while the conversion is under way, either—which leaves landlords with few options to ready a building for its reinvention as condos.

“It is a very important case,” said Arthur Weinstein, a real-estate lawyer and vice president of the Council of New York Cooperatives. “If it survives on appeal, it closes a significant gap in the existing law governing the conversion of occupied buildings into cooperative or condominium status.”

Mr. Weinstein, who has represented both landlords and tenants, said that even if the decision holds, tenants with expired leases still face a period of six to 12 months in which they could be evicted: the time the landlord submits a conversion plan (the “red herring”), and the point at which the revised plan (the “black book”) is accepted by the State Attorney General.

Rent-regulated tenants have long been protected from eviction during a conversion, but the rule on market-rate tenants has been more vague.

Judge Cohen’s ruling centers on the part of the state law governing conversions, which states that “no eviction proceedings will be commenced at any time against non-purchasing tenants for failure to purchase or any other reason applicable to expiration of tenancy.” Judge Cohen said that the law applies to market-rate tenants with expired leases.

“We chose not to renew the leases of the market-rate tenants, and there were 23 of them who did not want to leave,” Mr. Swig told The Observer. “The law is black-and-white: If you don’t have a lease and you are not rent-regulated, then you have no right to occupy.”

Since buying the high-rise in March 2005, Mr. Swig has pretty much emptied the 50-story building, except for the 23 defendants and about 100 rent-regulated tenants. By doing so, he has been able to renovate more easily and combine apartments into larger—and therefore more profitable—units.

Mr. Swig said that he offered the defendants insider prices at “way below the market.”

The president of the tenants’ association and a defendant in the eviction case, Nancy Rovelli, told The Observer that in most cases, the offers did not represent a discount off the black book, or first offering prices, but rather off later amendments.

“When Judge Cohen was hearing the case, he did indicate and encourage negotiations, and at that point we did, but nothing ever came of it,” Ms. Rovelli said. “Not only was [Mr. Swig] jacking up the prices, but he was inflating the square feet.”

—M.S.