Joseph Moinian’s Mystery on 54th Street

joe moinian Joseph Moinians Mystery on 54th Street

I won't blink. I can't! (Getty)

The city has been eagerly awaiting the construction of Boston Properties’ new office tower at 55th Street and Eighth Avenue, an on-again-off-again project by SOM that will likely be the first new office tower of the real estate rebound. (The World Trade Center does not count, but what about Extell’s Diamond Tower?) Having secured a big MoFo as a tenant in March, Mort Zuckerman is ready to build, and The Post‘s Steve Cuozzo reports building permits were just approved for 250 West 55th Street, “paving the way for full-bore work.”  But the more exciting news at the corner could be Joe Moinian’s gambit across the street.

The mysterious Harry Gross is already hard at work on the city’s tallest hotel there, but Mr. Moinian also got an expected approval for a hotel of his own next door, a 34-story number at 237 West 54th Street. The 100th Most Powerful Man in Real Estate seems to think this is all part of a move to force Mr. Gross to buy out Mr. Moinian.

No rendering of the Gene Kaufman-designed hotel was available. That’s led to speculation that, rather than build, Moinian would prefer to be bought out by Harry Gross, who’s putting up the block’s third giant project — a 60-story Marriott hotel next door at 1717 Broadway.

Moinian’s project would likely block views from the Marriott’s lower floors. Moinian’s rep blamed the lack of an image on a confidentiality agreement with an unidentified partner.

This is not the first time the wily developer has made a hair-raising move in the neighborhood. Who could forget the fight with Steve Ross over Columbus Circle, which Mr. Moinian eventually won. Can he turn the same trick here?

mchaban@observer.com :: Follow on Twitter @tacitelli