Condo owners at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan take legal action against developer
Earlier this summer, a contractor arrived at 432 Park Ave. on Billionaires’ Row in Manhattan to remedy the ubiquitous water leaks in the mega-skyscraper. He began drilling into the concrete floor, allegedly with no indication as to whether the building’s developers had placed the electrical wiring underneath. The entrepreneur quickly discovered the answer. He cut a cable, setting off an explosion that threw him several feet into the air, according to a complaint filed on behalf of tenants this week. It would be the second explosion in just three years.
The lawsuit, which claims at least $ 125 million in damages, says residents suffered one of the worst cases of “wrongdoing in luxury condominium development in New York City history. “. The lawsuit further alleges that the developers either attempted to evade responsibility for 1,500 construction defects or “negligent remedial efforts which, at worst, caused millions of additional dollars in costs.”
Many of the allegations appeared in a New York Times survey published in February, which sparked a torrent of schadenfreude in the comments section of the article. (“I sobbed uncontrollably while reading this story of indescribably dark doom,” wrote one reader sardonic.) The Times also first reported this week’s trial.
Sarina Abramovich, who owns a unit in the building, said the chaos caused infighting among residents. “Everyone hates each other here,” she previously told the Times. Abramovich and her husband bought a $ 17 million apartment in 2016, expecting white glove treatment upon arrival. Instead, she complained, it was zipped to her unit in a freight elevator, “surrounded by plates of steel and plywood, with a helmet operator.”
According to court documents, construction of the 1,396-foot tower was not only delayed but completed haphazardly. The ceilings are cracked, the joints are misaligned, the sliding doors do not work and “using the garbage chute seems like a bomb.”
Tenants also complain about frequent crackles and vibrations. The documents allege that the co-founder of one of the building’s developers, Richard Ressler, owns a unit in the building and previously admitted that the noise issues are “” intolerable, “making it difficult to sleep during periods of time, even moderately inclement.
Ressler’s firm, CIM, declined to comment. A spokesperson for the building sponsorship group, of which ICM is a member, said “every commitment and term in the park 432 plan and offering statement has been honored.” He added that “the [homeowner’s association] restricted access to the property to carry out remediation work, which delayed the completion of some work. Additionally, the HOA and some noisy residents misunderstand the sponsor’s obligations.
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of 432 Park’s board of directors and the tenants collectively, meaning that individual landlords could potentially still file their own legal claims. But the most striking allegations seem to affect the entire building.
Elevators, for example, were programmed to slow down during periods of high winds. As a result, residents were trapped inside for hours at a time. The sponsoring group reportedly hired a consultant who recommended using duct tape to stabilize unsecured materials. Meanwhile, the building holds an energy efficiency rating of D, according to the lawsuit.
Some owners bought units thinking they would have a restaurant with a “Michelin rated chef” that would offer free breakfast and a spending requirement of just $ 100 per month. Instead, they say, they no longer get their free breakfast and now have to spend $ 15,000 a year “to subsidize the operation of the restaurant.”
There were other surprise accusations. Condominium property insurance premiums have reportedly skyrocketed by around 300%, apparently in part due to construction issues, which has increased costs for individual owners.
According to the lawsuit, the developers blocked their efforts to fix the issues and instead tried to prevent residents from taking control of the board, including by overturning an election at the last minute. Residents finally took over in January.
An external consultant hired by some residents found more than 1,000 defects in the building, which included more than two dozen “life safety” issues. The lawsuit alleges that the developers claim to have completed more than 100 items on the list, but will not say which ones or what they mean by “done.”
As the lawsuit progresses, some tenants seek to offload their possessions, even at ambitious prices. The building’s penthouse is currently on the market for $ 169 million. The owner, a Saudi businessman named Fawaz Alhokair, paid $ 88 million five years ago. It will be a difficult sale to make.