Friday, April 16, 2010

Weinstein prevails, if only temporarily, after a bitter (and delayed) eviction on Pacific Street

After nearly seven months of delay, Prospect Heights property owner Henry Weinstein finally saw his tenants and subtenants evicted yesterday from 752 Pacific Street, an industrial building turned office building in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

"It's a hollow victory, because I'm probably going to lose my property in a month or two," acknowledged Weinstein.

He nevertheless expressed satisfaction that he had prevailed in a process by which his tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, allied with Forest City Ratner (FCR) to suggest that an acre of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards side was "controlled" by FCR, thus minimizing the need for eminent domain.

"They thought they were going to run me over," he said. Weinstein sees that process as an attempt to devalue his property and thus save FCR tens of millions of dollars. And he says his tenants owe him hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent.

(A deceptive property map was finally corrected last September. The asterixes in the above map suggest that the property was controlled by FCR but in dispute. I suggested that the default description favored Forest City Ratner.)

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) told the Daily News that they, not Weinstein, now control the property, having prevailed in the eminent domain process. Weinstein told me that, even if title had been transferred, he believed that ownership didn't change until payment was made--and, like others, he'd received a lowball pre-vesting offer.

An argument in court is scheduled for April 21 regarding the timing of condemnees' departure and payment issues.

Above, Weinstein outside his building, looking east from Carlton Avenue. He bought the building, a former carbon paper manufacturing facility, in 1985; it had been closed for two decades.

Broader story

The one Daily News photo attached to the story portrayed Weinstein with Patti Hagan and Steve deSeve, two Atlantic Yards protesters, but the photos (and set) by Tracy Collins tell a broader story.

Weinstein said he renovated major systems and the building's structure, while Boymelgreen--who renovated the nearby Newswalk and bought the Ward Bakery with renovation plans (before selling it to Forest City Ratner)--did interior renovations, allowing use as office space.

Need to break in

While an eviction notice was posted on the door at 752 Pacific on Wednesday, it was not visible to me when I walked by Wednesday night--though a similar notice was visible at the adjacent parking lot. Weinstein said the notice on the door had been ripped down.

Weinstein said the tenants had been uncooperative, unwilling to open the building on Tuesday, when he was denied access when he tried to visit with a representative of Forest City Ratner and the Cornerstone Group, a real estate firm acting as the ESDC's consultant. On Thursday, Weinstein had to have the locks broken with a crowbar and a drill.


Gaining entry on sixth floor

Inside, Weinstein said, the tenants had shut off the elevator, requiring a walk up the stairs and another breaking of locks, this time on the sixth floor.


A renovated office

The office space, in this panorama, seems to have been nicely renovated. Weinstein told me he didn't even think FCR would demolish the building but instead would use it for office space. The official plan, however, is to use the entire block--bounded by Pacific and Dean streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues--for interim surface parking.


A Boymelgreen lieutenant

Exiting the building is Eugene Zlatopolsky, once described by the New York Sun as the manager of Boymelgreen Development's legal department and someone Weinstein has tangled with multiple times.


Tense atmosphere

While there was no need for the armed sheriff's office personnel to use their sidearms, the atmosphere was tense, according to Weinstein and Collins. (I wasn't there.) The 15-20 tenants and subtenants had less than half an hour to carry computers, valuable papers, and other equipment downstairs and outside.


Outside the building

Boymelgreen is a Hasidic Jew of the Lubavitcher movement; several of the occupants wore garb indicating they are fellow Hasids. Boymelgreen, who saw much success as a developer and banker, recently hit a rocky stretch, with LibertyPointe, a bank he helped start, failing last month.


Under the sheriff's supervision

At one point, a representative of the sheriff's office had an animated conversation with a man Weinstein said identified himself as Benjamin Herbst.


A Weinstein foe

Herbst was not happy with the presence of a photographer. He told the Daily News his son did security work for Boymelgreen and ran his own security business out of the building; he blamed Weinstein for "spite and vindictiveness." Weinstein, in turn, had similar words for Herbst, saying the tenant had promised him he wouldn't get the recovery he seeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment