Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel group has substantial real estate development interests in New York, including residential condominium conversion projects. One of these, at 15 Broad Street in downtown Manhattan, is a luxury residential project that was converted from office space.
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It is located very close to Wall Street and indeed was once occupied by international bank, JP Morgan. the project was marketed as “Downtown by Starck” with interior design by Philippe Starck. Brooklyn developer Shaya Boymelgreen acquired the 750, 000 square foot building in 2003 for US$100 million, or only about US$133 per square foot.
In a very nice touch the original 1, 900-piece Louis Quinze chandelier, that used to hang in the main banking hall of J. P. Morgan’s adjacent 23 Wall Street, was given by Morgan to be displayed in the lobby of 15 Broad Street.
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According to the designer Philippe Starck, many pieces were Swarovski crystals imported from Austria before the First World War. The office tower itself at 15 Broad Street was completed only in 1928.
Even though the conversion which Africa Israel and Boymelgreen carried out in a development partnership between 2004 and 2007 was an upscale luxury building there were many complaints from the new residents of unfinished work after the conversion was completed, and a proper certificate of occupancy has never been issued as a result.
Accordingly, owners of the upscale condominiums have been suing the two developers for several years now for their allegedly shoddy work. Eventually, even the New York State Attorney Eric Schneiderman got involved in the case, and at the beginning of March a New York court put in place, at his urging, a ban on Leviev or Boymelgreen from transacting any further cooperative or condominium sales in the State of New York, pending resolution of the deficiencies found at 15 Broad.
Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments and Boymelgreen were also ordered to pay a deposit of $470, 000 into a court supervised account in the mean time.
Leviev and Boymelgreen also had to turn over comprehensive accounting information, and building and construction records, to the court.
Then two weeks ago Judge Debra James of the New York State Supreme Court rejected a motion by Africa Israel to block the restraining order concerning their cooperative or condominium sales activities.
Finally this week the same Judge, Judge Debra James, has just given an instruction to Africa Israel, and his partner, Boymelgreen to call a board meeting, at the nearly 400 unit building, within one week and to finally hand over control of the building at that meeting to the owners of the condominiums.
Steve Sladkus, who is a lawyer and co-chair of the real estate practice at Wolf Haldenstein, which represents the independent committee of the 15 Broad condominium board, said after the Judge’s order, “My client is thrilled that Justice James reinstated Justice Braun’s original order in full and that the individual unit owners may finally control their residences in which the sponsor has no interest.”
Mr. Sladkus also added, without too much conviction, “In addition, it would be nice if Africa Israel and Mr. Boymelgreen would finally step to the plate and address the issues being complained of for so long instead of letting those complaints fall on deaf ears.”
Africa Israel has so far not commented on these developments.