September 14, 2021

"New Development Returns, Along With New Holdouts" | New York Times | Press

"New Development Returns, Along With New Holdouts" | New York Times | Press

Sept. 10, 2021 // Stefanos Chen

Partner Taso Pardalis and our client were recently mentioned in a NY Times article about the struggle between developers looking to move forward with expanding projects and homeowners holding onto their land with a tight grip.

Below you can find excerpts and the full story can be read here.

"After more than a year of moribund sales and projects stalled by the pandemic, developers are attempting to move forward with large assemblages of land and unused air rights to create the next wave of towers, as the market turns the corner. But in their path are a small number of homeowners and tenants — the latest in a long tradition of headstrong and sometimes quirky residents — who won’t give up their hard-fought patch of dirt so easily. In other words, New York is back."

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

"In Long Island City’s Court Square area, the developers Tavros Holdings and Charney Companies are preparing to build a 52-story, 560-foot tower that will have 300 rentals — of which about 90 will be listed below market rate — 41 condos, and a large commercial footprint. To that end, they have quietly made deals, beginning in 2016, to buy the townhomes of seven adjacent homeowners, which have already been demolished to make way for the new tower."

"And then there were two."

Source: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

"Benito Barba, a retired baker and the owner of a tan-brick townhouse beneath the rumbling 7-train tracks, lives on one edge of the more than 11,000-square-foot development site. Adding his property to the site would create a wider base for the building, and contribute square footage that would help the project become eligible for significantly more height."

"But Mr. Barba, who is in his 80s and bought the house in 1971, had no interest in selling, said Sam Charney, one of the developers. 'He wanted to remain for the rest of his life.'"

"After months of trying, they reached a different deal: Mr. Barba would keep the house but transfer almost 17,000 square feet of unused development rights above his home to the new project, and allow the tower to cantilever over his three-story house."

"In renderings of the new project, Mr. Barba’s tidy brick house is prominently featured beside the glassy skyscraper, like a Disney movie set."

"Mr. Barba did not return requests for comment through his lawyer, Taso Pardalis. The developers would not say how much they paid him, but public record shows that a trust in Mr. Barba’s name recently bought three luxury condos at the nearby Skyline Tower, the tallest building in Queens, for over $3 million."

A rendering of the 52-story tower proposed by Tavros Holdings and Charney Companies in Long Island City. Mr. Barba’s brick townhouse, which he refused to sell, is prominently featured beside the skyscraper.
Fogarty Finger Architecture | NY Times

"But to build the tower they truly wanted, Mr. Charney and his business partner, Nicholas Silvers, of Tavros, knew they also needed to deal with Mr. Nastasi, the Sicilian mechanic who owns the building on the other end of the block."

"They were not prepared. "He’s one of the most amazing personalities I’ve come across,” said Mr. Charney, who spent months making overtures to buy Mr. Nastasi’s building, because its unused development rights could effectively add several more stories to the proposed tower."

Joe Nastasi, 73, an unassuming mechanic involved in development negotiations for his three-story property in Long Island City, is the owner of close to 30 exotic and vintage cars tucked away in a nearby Queens warehouse. Developers tried for months to buy him out of his property: No deal, he said.

Source: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

"What quickly became clear was that they weren’t dealing with just any mechanic. Mr. Nastasi, a former racecar driver who immigrated to New York in his 20s, made a fortune in the 1980s and 1990s by converting imported sports cars to comply with stricter environmental standards in the United States."

"He lives, with his girlfriend, Linda Killen, in a modest apartment with Mediterranean tile floors on the top floor of the building he bought in 1977, above a bank and an insurance company. But a few blocks away, in an industrial warehouse, he keeps a collection of nearly 30 exotic sports cars — mostly vintage Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Alfa Romeos from the 1970s and ’80s."

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

"At one point, the developers offered $18 million to buy the building outright, the couple said, but Mr. Nastasi balked."

“I got no mortgage, I don’t owe nothing to nobody,” he said. “Why I should sell a gold mine?” Plus, he’s 15 minutes from LaGuardia airport. “I’m in the middle of the Earth.”

"So he made a counteroffer to sell roughly 90,000 square feet of unused development rights to the developers, and he gets to keep his building. The deal closed late last year for an undisclosed sum, but Mr. Silvers said it was “multiples” of what was paid to Mr. Barba, because this property had significantly more development rights."

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