20 Pine: The Conniption

“You know what handwritten means to me?” Mr. Schwabbel said.

“What?” said the buyer.

“Nothing.”

“Who are you? You are the authority of Pine Street?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Schwabbel. Then later: “Because you know that you’re bullshitting me.”

“Me? Bullshitting you?” said the buyer. “Are you joking?”

“All the best,” Mr. Schwabbel said before the call ended with a dial tone. “All I am telling you is that you’re about to lose a million dollars.”

Mr. Shvo was named in that lawsuit as well. “You’re talking about a country where if they sue somebody, they sue everybody,” he said Sunday. “They sue their broker, they sue their grandmother.”

Yoram Nachimovsky, an attorney who has worked with that buyer, said this week that he has two other clients at 20 Pine who are considering lawsuits. “My feeling is that the building is not up to snuff,” he explained. “I don’t believe that the building is Armani, O.K.? In other words, it’s sort of like if you take a Louis Vuitton in from Chinatown and say it’s a Louis Vuitton—it’s not.”

“It’s coming out very, very close to what was in renderings,” Mr. Shvo said. “I mean, look, if you put things in perspective, the only issue in the building is that there were construction delays. … Of course it pissed me off, but besides me taking a hammer and starting to build—which, unfortunately, even that wouldn’t do at that point—I have to count on someone else to deliver the product.”

But there have been other issues besides construction delays. This January, word spread that a group called Venture Capital Properties was sending letters to potential investors advertising a 51.5 percent discount if the remaining 80 units were bought in bulk. “The price of this property is the exact amount the developer owes the banks, and he will not sell it for less than the remaining debt,” their letter claimed.

“I can say right now, we’re the only ones who represent properties in the building,” Mr. Shvo said this week, his voice low. “We’ve sent several cease-and-desist letters.”

In February, when news broke that another buyer was suing to get back a deposit on her $925,000 condo, the building announced it would halt work on its unfinished amenities space. Money had apparently run out. That month, a cover story in Barron’s (“Manhattan’s luxury real-estate market is rotting”!) opened with an image of Michael Shvo on a rain-drenched afternoon. “20 Pine is starting to look,” the magazine said, “like just another victim of New York’s luxury-housing bust.”

 

“HERE’S THE THING,” said Deborah DeMaria, a Manhattan real estate broker who spent $3.755 million on units in the building. “I have never lived in a new building that’s been on time. This is my third new construction. Not one was on time.”

Ms. DeMaria, who is on 20 Pine’s condo board, doesn’t have much sympathy for the building’s homeowner association, which has complained about delays, poor communication and, for example, loud air conditioning or bad flooring in their units. In February, the group put an attorney named Adam Leitman Bailey, whose Web site has separate sections for his print and TV appearances, on retainer.

Owners in 73 units have joined the association, according to one tally. Mr. Bailey, whose office happens to overlook 20 Pine, would not comment, although he once told the Post that he’s negotiated price cuts for clients at 20 Pine that were as big as 40 percent.

“He’s an ambulance chaser. He’s trying to get business, and I don’t begrudge him that,” Ms. DeMaria said. “They have a lot of people stirred up, I guess, thinking they can get out of their contracts or get their money back. But I don’t want to do that. I want to live.”

Michael Lukasek, a vice president at Goldman Sachs who works in hedge funds, and who bought a place in the disastrous Financial District condo 25 Broad before buying at 20 Pine, isn’t a member of the homeowners association. “To me, these are people who are going to bitch and moan,” he said.

But changes have come. Mr. Leviev’s Africa Israel USA and a lender, Richard Mack’s Apollo Real Estate Advisors, both put more money into the project earlier this year, which Mr. Boymelgreen couldn’t or wouldn’t do. “Thank God they did,” Mr. Schwabbel, the Boymelgreen executive from those phone transcripts, conceded this week. “They sort of came across as everyone’s savior.”