Pamela Harris

The Lawsuit May 22, 2017

(I apologize for the resend. I got the lawsuits backward.)

I think when it began it was friendly. Friendly in the way new neighbors might be toward each other, before they get to know each other.

Back in 2007, a church near us, Our Lady of Vilnius, was shuttered. The supposedly dwindling population who went to that church tried to fight the closing, and lost. Around 2013 the church sold to developers, who then bought the brownstone next to it. The developers flipped both lots to a new owner and in 2015 the church got torn down. The lot sat empty for a year. In the photo above, the building that’s starting to rise is on these two lots.

The empty lot in front of that construction was a parking garage. This parcel sold, and it too may have been flipped, but at this point I can’t keep up. Half our block has sold, including our building. The buying frenzy has been relentless.

The parking lot was going to be a twenty-seven-story residential tower. The church lot was going to be a seventeen-story residential tower. We heard the church group bought air rights from the building next to their lot, which allowed them to build higher. They got a permit from the city to go to twenty-five stories. This meant the higher floors in the parking lot's new building, touted as having 365 degree views, would no longer have those views. So the parking lot group sued the church group, stating a di Blasio lobbyist helped sway the Dept. of Buildings in issuing that permit, air rights or no air rights. Or something like that, since suits are flying and I can't keep up.

These buildings are being sold as high luxury and they need the views to combat the reality that they overlook the Holland Tunnel. You can’t see it in the image above, but the trees in the left of the photo line a side street that is actually blocked off near the white van parked (left) near the middle of the picture. It means whomever buys here can only walk one way when they exit their building. They'll hit a major city street and will have to cross it to get anywhere. Traffic here is bumper to bumper as cars fight to get to the entrance to the tunnel. Drivers won't stop for traffic lights or pedestrians or a local trying to wrangle sweet Ginger to Ginger's favorite poop spot at the height of rush hour. When I have to cross this traffic mess I can out-swear Teamsters.

On another side of our building, the quiet side, the Renzo Piano residential tower is going to be thirty stories. The photo below is where it currently stands, roughly six stories. This tower is luxury squared and supposedly it’s almost sold out. Rumor says most of the buyers are those who want a place to stay in New York City when they visit. Our neighborhood has become so expensive the only people who can afford to live in it are those who won’t.

Between all the sites there is constant chaos, so much so the birds are discombobulated. I hear them singing at 3:30 in the morning. We’ve had a large exodus from our building, the most vacant apartments since September 11th. The new owners are doing major renovations to the empty apartments and are trying to rent them at much higher prices. Our building is decidedly non-luxury, and though the new owners have dropped hints at wanting to make improvements, the only way to make this building nicer is to tear it down and start over.

We don’t know what the new owners plan to do with our building. Chances are they’re waiting to see what happens when all these towers are complete. We’re now looking for a weekend place, since we’ve decided to keep our home here. It means our budget for a house has been slashed. Bring on all fixer-uppers. Kitchen hasn't been touched since 1910? No problem! Rotted joists? To the lumberyard we go!


Interesting, but confusing. Since the Church lot and the Parking lot are adjacent and contiguous, I can't imagine them NOT having the same zoning. I'm guessing the Church Dev initially decided to go just 17 floors, which was permissible according to the zoning without paying for the extra air rights, which allows additional square footage, as well as additional height to
accommodate that square footage. The Parking Dev obviously decided to go for the bonus air rights right off the bat, thinking that his building would have at least 10 floors with 360 views, and he probably initiated the sales of those higher units with the preferred views with a substantial premium. Then Church Dev figured to do the same, which is his legal right to do so, as long the structural and foundation was built to accommodate those extra floors. Next, Mr Parking says Whoa Boy, Not So Fast, I designed my building based on your permitted documents, and I am now incurring a substantial loss due to my reduced views. Therefore, I'm suing you for the difference. It will drag in the Courts for years, making lawyers a lot of money, before someone decides to mediate by coming to the conclusion that Even Though I Have The Right To Go Higher, And I Don't Owe You A Dime, This Is A Complete Waste Of Time And Money, So I'm Going To Settle For $100K So You Will Just Go Away And Leave Me The F*** Alone. In the meantime, the attorneys made $1,000,000. Go Figure.
On the other side, you have the Renzo Piano jewel. Sooner or later, your Building Owner will see the writing on the wall, and offer you a pretty penny to give up your lease. They say Patience is a Virtue. Maybe. Hang in there. You're smack dab in the middle of an interesting drama.

Paul Murphy | May 22, 2017 at 04:26 pm

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