Tribeca Builder Gives Residents The First Floor

If you’re thinking of opening a shop in Tribeca-9/11bedamned-sportscaster Warner Wolf, comedian Billy

Crystal and ex-Hamptons health- club entrepreneur Alexis Stewart, the daughter of

crafts czarina Martha Stewart, have a space they’d like you to see.

That’s because they, along with the owners of 54 other condo

apartments in the Ice House at 27 N. Moore Street in Tribeca, are now the proud

owners of three commercial spaces totaling 6,000 square feet on the building’s

ground floor-part of a settlement reached by State Attorney General Eliot

Spitzer with one of the building’s developers, Jack Lefkowitz, that transferred

ownership of the commercial condominium units to the condo’s board.

Mr. Spitzer’s office sued Mr. Lefkowitz last January on behalf of

the building’s residents (crooner Marc Anthony had just sold his place) because

of what they said was shoddy construction in the building, and because finishes

on the apartments that had been specified in the offering plan when the spaces

were sold for as much as $3.9 million weren’t there-either never installed or

exchanged for cheaper, less tony brands.

Mr. Lefkowitz has insisted that he and his development team are

not to blame for the warping floors and the less-than-top-of-the-line fixtures.

Calls requesting comment from Mr. Lefkowitz were referred to his lawyer, who

was traveling and did not return calls before press time.

Almost immediately upon taking occupancy in the autumn of 1999,

residents found that the floorboards in the loft-style apartments were

buckling; the roof was leaking, requiring the owners to tear it off and install

a new roof with a waterproof membrane; and the promised brick walls turned out

to be faux brickface. Heating units were not working properly, residents

complained, and the marble lobby they’d been promised turned out to be rather

more standard loft fare: concrete floors.

Sources said negotiations between the residents and the developer

became strained shortly after Mr. Spitzer’s office filed the suit, when someone

leaked a story to the New York Post

in February 2001 saying that a settlement in the case had been reached for $8

million.

“We announced the suit in January of last year and there have

been ongoing negotiations, and the negotiations continued right up till the end

of last week,” Brad Maione, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, said

of the supposed settlement. “They went to the press prematurely.”

There are five commercial units in the building, two of which are

below-grade and currently owned by a parking garage. The three remaining units

hadn’t been leased when the lawsuit was filed, and the terms of an earlier suit

by the condo board constrained Mr. Lefkowitz from selling or leasing them,

adding to the incentive for a settlement-or so the Attorney General’s office

thought.

The units generated a lot of interest among store-leasing agents

back in 1999, and rumors circulated that Jean-Georges Vongerichten, among

others, was looking at one of the spaces. But according to downtown broker

Faith Hope Consolo, vice chairman of Garrick-Aug Worldwide, the units were

never made available for inspection by retailers.

Now, she said, Tribeca’s cachet is on the wane for all but

“destination businesses”-and September’s terror attacks and the ensuing

coverage of Tribeca’s woebegone shopkeepers didn’t help.

“But there are still companies looking at Tribeca for two

reasons: the amount of space you can get, and [the fact that] you can get a

very good economic deal in Tribeca,” said Ms. Consolo. “Tribeca today [leases

for] somewhere around $60 a square foot, and … that’s a good deal. The average

for all of Manhattan is $100 a square foot, but $700 in the 57th Street

corridor or on Madison Avenue. Soho can be $300. So for a retailer who needs

size, who is a destination, it’s a good deal.”

Ms. Consolo said she is currently working to find space for a

European furniture designer who has expressed interest in the address. She said

she didn’t think the Attorney General’s investigation would affect the sales

prices of the commercial units.

“Retailers are used to coming in and virtually rebuilding a

space,” she said, “and that’s true on Madison Avenue as it is on N. Moore

Street, regardless of what’s going on in the apartments upstairs.”

Michael Connolly, president of the building’s condo board, said

they had not yet contracted a broker to sell the places, and hadn’t even

decided whether to lease them out or sell them as commercial condos.

“We are making the necessary repairs to the building, and we’re

comfortable that we have the financial ability to do what we need to do,” said

Mr. Connolly. “We’ve already replaced the roof, and we’re in the process of

repainting the exterior façades and renovating the lobby. Anything else is yet

to be determined.”

While the single, contiguous space is not yet divided, it can

accommodate up to three businesses or one large one, if the price is right. The

Attorney General’s office used a projected sales price for all three units of

“between $2 [million] and $3 million” to gauge the size of the settlement

against Mr. Lefkowitz. Whether those numbers can be made remains to be seen.

That doesn’t mean the board can’t be picky about its tenants-as

long as they’re willing to wait a while to be reimbursed for the work they’re

doing on the building. And it seems that having the right people downstairs is

worth it to them.

“We look at it as a long-term investment, and we think that

there’s a lot of benefit to controlling that space,” Mr. Connolly said. “It’s

not going to be a nightclub. There’s a couple of bad situations in Tribeca with

that, and we’re happy to be sure that’s not going to happen to us.” Tribeca Builder Gives Residents The First Floor