New York’s 10 juiciest real estate chases of 2022

Left to right: Nir Meir, Gary Barnett, Konrad Bicher, Eric Adams and Paul Manafort (Photo illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty, HFZ Capital Group, Twitter/Konrad Bicher)

New York’s legal eagles billed real estate clients for many hours last year on both sides of the courtroom, where landlords, tenants, scammers and debauchers all had their day . A lawsuit involving an illegal Airbnb rental ring has drawn the most attention from readers of The real deal, and the town hall’s crackdown on negligent landlords also garnered plenty of clicks. Several rent regulation disputes were also represented among the lawsuits most noticed by our readers.

Here are more details about the 10 most popular chases TRD covered in 2022:

Airbnb’s wolf

The legal troubles of Konrad Bicher, the self-proclaimed “wolf of Airbnb” came to the head Last year. His plan to rent Manhattan apartments on the online market might have worked had he not stiffened a string of landlords along the way and refused to vacate the properties. Bicher is also accused of scamming to obtain federal PPP loans worth $565,000.

The bad behavior appears to have started before Covid, but escalated when travel and tourism came to a halt due to the pandemic. He Told TRD that his nickname “means someone who is hungry and ruthless enough to climb to the top of the financial ladder”.

His company first reported by TRD in February, Bicher was arrested in Florida over the summer and charged by federal authorities in October with committing fraud and identity theft. Airbnb would have Bicher prohibited from the platform.

Mayor vs. Moshe

New York City dragged owner Moshe Piller to court after racking up enough tenant complaints and building violations to place it on public attorney Jumaane Williams’ “worst landlord” watch list. Mayor Eric Adams’ administration claimed in April that Moshe had failed for years to address housing, fire code and health violations at his properties, allowing apartment buildings containing 927 units falling into disrepair. Among the charges, which Moshe denied in court, include creating apartments with inadequate fire escapes and failing to comply with peeling lead paint and pest infestations.

Earlier this month, the city filed similar lawsuits against the owners Fred Ohebshalom and Efstathios Valiotis.

Ghostly tenants

Owners Fred and Alex Hay adhered to a long-standing program that included fake tenants and phantom improvements as a way to raise rents for an Upper Manhattan apartment building. The scam involved reporting inflated rents for certain units to housing authorities and abusing a now-defunct law that allowed rents to rise during periods of vacancy.

Real tenants who rented units after fake ones ended up paying higher rents than allowed by law. The state attorney general’s office discovered discrepancies between rents reported to officials and those charged to tenants by assigning financial agreements with the property’s lender. The Hays agreed to pay back tens of thousands of dollars to victimized tenants, but escaped punitive fines.

Mrs Robinson

An eviction case which left 98-year-old Ida Robinson fighting for her nearly 70-year-old family home plays out like a Dickensian saga in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. What started with a paid off mortgage of $17,000, born in 1951, became a protracted dispute over a subprime mortgage against the house in 2007 and a buyout deal that saw the deed transferred to owner Menachem Gurevitch in 2016.

Gurevitch attempted an eviction but was stopped by the Crown Heights Tenants Union and Brooklyn Eviction Defense, who brought the family back into the house. Allegations that Robinson’s grandson had pocketed money of the takeover agreement has muddied the waters, as has the moratorium on evictions. The litigation of the deed of ownership is In progress.

Schreiber’s canvas

A tangle of over-committed collateral and underperforming assets lured WeWork’s early investor, Joel Schreiber, in legal disputes with a multitude of enemies over his real estate portfolio. After borrowing money from Goldman Sachs, Adam Neumann, an Orthodox Jewish congregation and reinsurance company with roots in Durham, North Carolina’s historic Black Wall Street, Schreiber lost his most precious possession — a million-square-foot commercial building in downtown Los Angeles — to Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital through foreclosure.

Supreme ambitions

Twin pursuits difficult The constitutionality of the 2019 tenant-friendly changes to state rent laws remains before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. An expected loss could give way in the US Supreme Court, where a conservative majority could be benevolent to landlords. The plaintiffs allege that New York’s rent stabilization violates the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property without “just compensation,” as well as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Solid wood

Hamptons luxury developer Joe Farrell found himself in hot water after would have cut 120 mature trees from a neighbor’s property in Southampton without his permission. Owner Susan Burnside asked a Suffolk County court for $36 million in damages, triple the alleged value of the tree assets, because the destruction was carried out “intentionally, willfully and with conscious disregard”. Hamptons activists and elected officials have lately take more notice of deforestation among the builders, arguing that overdevelopment risks harming the environment and culture of the coastal enclave.

Convertible debt

Former HFZ Capital director Nir Meir narrowly escaped judge’s anger who grew tired of his “procedural manoeuvres” to evade accountability when he settled a dispute with Israeli car tycoon Yoav Harlap. Harlap was among the investors who sued Meir and HFZ Capital founder Ziel Feldman over the company’s 2020 collapse. After trying to raise $18.5 million judgment against MeirHarlap wanted Meir thrown in jail for allegedly lying about selling a blue Aston Martin convertible, which would violate a restraining order against the sale of assets.

Settling scores

Robert Gans, owner of a West Side real estate portfolio with strong development potential, conspiracy cried when lenders, including affiliates of Gary Barnett’s Extell Development and Joseph Tabak’s Princeton Real Estate Partners, moved to seize his property. A company run by a member of the Tabak family bought senior debt in Gans’ portfolio for $148 million last April and quickly filed foreclosure proceedings, prompting Gans to throw his businesses out of business. The portfolio also includes properties in Queens and the Chelsea Scores nightclub, which inspired the movie “Hustlers” starring Jennifer Lopez.

The Millions of Manafort

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for former President Donald Trump, lost its 4,400 square foot brownstone in Carroll Gardens to foreclosure. The property, which Manafort has renovated into a single-family home, grossed $4.8 million at public auction. The townhouse at 377 Union Street was cited in a 2017 indictment by Robert Mueller alleging Manafort purchased it as part of a money laundering and tax evasion scheme. Manafort had agreed to forfeit the house, but ultimately lost it to lenders following a presidential pardon. Manafort paid around $3 million for the townhouse in 2012.

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