239 Banker Street: $15,000 in Stop Work Order Fines & Counting!

October 3, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

I know what some of you are asking:

Why do you have such a big problem with 239 Banker Street?

Well, among other things:

1. Using the pretext of “Loft Law” protection (which was ostensibly put in place to preserve “our” artistic community) for “lofts” sporting stainless steel appliances and $2,700+ rent is laughable— and hypocritical.

2. Claiming that this measure protects “families” from being displaced, and the “Community Organizer” seemingly responsible for this loft law application seems to be under this impression, is wretchedly comical. From what I have been told, families are actually being steered away from this property (which is in and of itself illegal). What’s more, windows upon windows of identical “loft beds” do not exactly inspire confidence that this is a family friendly place.

3bunkbeds

Rather, it screams “college dormitory”.

3. Let us consider this complaint, shall we?

Had these fellows simply perused Craigslist they would know there’s plenty going on. No inspection required!

Methinks the better questions are:

  • Why was the above-listed advertisement for the former “Sweater Factory Lofts” listed as 245 Banker Street  as opposed to 239 Banker Street?
  • Why so many others have had a problem with 239 Banker Street?

(Those of you have patience and wherewithal can view the rest of this litany of complaints by clicking here.)

  • And why our City Councilman, who did not even reside in Greenpoint (or the 33rd City Council District for that matter) when this shit show started, saw fit to email me about it?

In closing, and for everyone’s edification, I have complied a photo set highlighting the immaculate construction of 239 Banker Street. Without further ado, here it is. Enjoy!

New York Shitty Day Starter: 239 Banker Street Craigslist Advertisement Du Jour

September 21, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Asshole, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Now they’re employing YouTube footage.

New York Shitty analysis:

  • It would probably be advisable to remove the personal items from the previous tenants (who were vacated by the Department of Buildings) before filming.
  • Then again, who cares?

But the insanity does not end there. Let’s proceed, shall we?

So now:

  • 239 Banker Street
  • The Sweater Factory Lofts
  • The Factory Lofts
  • The 39 Meserole Avenue Lofts
  • The “Rustic House” Artists Lofts

are now known as 245 Banker Street. Fascinating. By any other address it still has Stop Work Order.

 

New York Shitty Day Ender: 239 Banker Street, Revisited…

August 19, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

possibly, probably for the final time.

Another day (August 19, 2012 to be specific), another move-in at 239 Banker Street.

Another day, another advertisement for the “Sweater Factory Lofts” on Craigslist.

I know what you’re thinking, gentle readers:

Why is this allowed to continue?

I have been long remiss in sharing the good news so here it is: what you have just seen is not a failure on, say, our municipal agencies and/or elected officials to defend the public’s interest/safety. It is a community organizing success story. You read me correctly: S-U-C-C-E-S-S. S-T-O-R-Y!

This I learned from none other than a Community Board 1 member who also happens to be a Community Organizer for an organization called “Neighbors Allied For Good Growth”.* She writes— after educating me on the specifics of Loft Law eligibility regarding landlords willing to “build out” (such units are eligible, as I learned) and I pointing out to her that by the time window allotted by the law alone 239 Banker does not qualify or Loft Law protection. I have taken the liberty of bold-facing my favorite passages.

It seems like everyone is waiting to see families (I thought they didn’t rent to those —Ed. Note)evicted onto the streets (again) and for these tenats to loose all sorts of cash (again). Filing the application protected these tenants from being further victimized. They arent stupid and can do the math. They understand that they dont qualify and they really dont need you to spell it out for them. However lame you may find it, the application will allow them leverage to get back deposits, gives them time to find new homes, and changes the script from them being victims in the scenario to having a voice in what goes down.

Let’s review/play Devil’s Advocate for a moment:

1. If I were able to afford an “apartment” to the sum of $2,700 – $3,200 a month (which is in my opinion a lot of money) methinks a little due diligence would be in order. A simple Google search reveals this building’s dubious history.

2. Hell, some disgruntled neighbor even noted this ON 239 Banker Street itself not too long ago (as seen at left).

3. But I suppose mistakes will be made— over and over— and that’s why we need “Community organizers”. Nevermind the fact tenants who can outlay the kind of money to reside in such a building can probably also afford to hire an attorney and file a class action suit.

But there I go again being “lame”. What’s worse, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Naturally, I was very intrigued by what this Community Organizer/Community Board 1 member had to say. Especially since she had an active hand in the Loft Law application in question:

i know who filed the app. Kinda goes with the territory of tenant organizer. It’s not easy to stop a slumlord. Spend one day in housing court or read the articles about the buildings we focused on for our tenant rights rally a couple of weeks ago and you will see all sorts of outrageous behavior. the slash and burn budgets of bloomberg dont help anything but it is more than just a city issue. dhcr — a state agency– has an average 2 year wait for a first hearing on an overcharge….

After informing this Community Organizer that I had, in fact, experienced some rather outrageous landlord behavior myself (over a $850/month apartment, no less, and have been to housing court) I pressed on:

If the applicant(s) knew what they were getting into was illegal; know they are ineligible for protection and you are bemoaning the fact our city agencies, the loft board among them— which has a 15 month backlog— why are you adding to the problem (e.g., filing this application in the first place)? This strikes me as being inconsistent. Is that 15 month window why the landlord “going along for the ride”? Just curious.

To wit I was informed:

they didnt know it was illegal when they signed the lease. filing the application was the only way to get them due process. it is also a great way to get the landlord into a city agency. the old tenants could never find him to serve him, etc. once a tenant files, there is no way for a landlord to stop the action–something this landlord tried to do. trust me, he doesnt want any rent stabilized tenants. in the end, you will probs end up with a hotel in that space….

…probs…

That’s my prob. This property was issued permits by the Department of Buildings under the ostensible purpose of it being a hotel. It didn’t exactly pan out that way.

Fifteen months to two years (possibly more) is a very long time— especially when a slew of elections are around the corner. And politicians will do anything for votes.

New York Shitty analysis:

1. Contrary to what this individual alleges, I do NOT want to see people thrown out on the street.
2. Rather, I (and I suspect a lot of folks who read this site) would have preferred to see this nipped in the proverbial bud. But it wasn’t.
3. Numerous complaints were filed about what was happening at 239 Banker Street and (other) Community Board members have brought it to the table both via correspondence and during public meetings. All to no avail.
4. This leads me to no other conclusion than other, higher forces are at work here. Not that I’m pointing fingers, mind you.

I’m not.

What this seemingly well-intentioned individual fails to comprehend is there is a flip-side to her “organizing”. Namely, that while protecting the interests of these tenants she is also basically enabling the landlord to go about “business as usual” (as clearly illustrated by the images gracing the beginning of this post).

Be it violating a Stop Work Order— repeatedly, dumping bricks into some neighbor’s backyard (and in so doing, destroying his barbecue grill) or real estate agents (acting on the behalf of the landlord/”management”, apparently) luring in more “victims” (her words, not mine) into leasing apartments in this quite illegal space. “Victims” who (apparently) need her assistance so as to become empowered.

Am I the only person who thinks this is total and utter bullshit? As a friend of mine recently opined:

Nothing refreshes disillusionment quite like ethics (or in this case, the law — Ed. Note) unequally applied.

Consider yours truly “refreshed”.

No amount of pointing out how utterly absurd this situation has become is going to change the fact the landlord(s) at this property have basically done whatever they wanted— for years— and have for all intents and purposes suffered no consequences for their actions.

I suppose I should simply drink the Kool Aid and see the glass half full:

Our public officials and municipal agencies charged with upholding the law and serving in the public’s interest did not fail. Rather, 239 Banker Street was (is) a stellar example of community organizing in north Brooklyn.

*Formerly known as Neighbors Allied Against Garbage.

Quicklinks: 239 Banker Street Sold?

May 24, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

If Brownstoner and Curbed are to be believed, this is the case. Per the latter:

The latest development at perpetual Greenpoint headscratcher the Sweater Factory Lofts has us, if possible, even more puzzled. The building just changed hands for $9.1 million, according to a deed that hit public record this morning. The buyer is an LLC, so we don’t know anything about who has plans for this building or what those plans might be. But the building’s long and slightly sordid history means our mind is slightly boggled by that sale price.

Brownstoner notes that the LLC in question is “JL Take Two LLC” and goes on to add it is unclear whether or not the new owner is a developer. In regards to this a commenter on Curbed tenders an interesting analysis:

Read the court case Lebedowicz v Meserole Factory LLC. JL had a mezz loan on the property above the $8m first mortgage. Probably either just got foreclosure or deed in lieu. Mezz lender foreclosure would explain the low price on the deed. It wasnt an arms length sale.

This keeps getting more and more interesting folks…

UPDATE: Here’s some more analysis from someone “in the know”!

You no doubt saw that this sold – if you haven’t already, you’ll want to spend your morning on ACRIS: http://a836-acris.nyc.gov/Scripts/DocSearch.dll/BBLResult (block 2593, lot 1)

I don’t have time to get into too much detail, but the transactions there are interesting.

JL Take Two is owned by Jerry and Lucy Lebedowicz, and they bought the property for $9.1 million from Meserole Factory LLC (the only name I could find was Israel Perlmutter, but I’m not sure if he is associated with the seller). Jerry & Lucy appear to hold the mezzanine debt on the property, which $3.5 million and dates to November 2005.

Separate from the sale, there is a four-year lease from Jerry and Lucy to Northside Lofts, LLC (390 Berry Street, Joseph Brunner is the manager of the LLC). Northside Lofts seems to have an option to purchase, but I can’t see any details.

Separately, an entity named Lex Debt LLC has a four-year option to purchase the property from Jerry and Lucy. That option is for $9.679 million if it is exercised today, and there is an escalator clause of $22k per month for the first 36 months and $42.5k per month for the last 12 months. So if they wait until the end of the option period, the price goes up by $1.3 million. The only name I can find associated with Lex Debt LLC is Israel Worch (not sure the spelling of the last name, it was scrawled). The address for Lex is a PO box in 11230 zip code.

So – Jerry and Lucy of Flushing hold a big chunk of debt on the building, and now they own the building outright. But Northside Lofts is the tenant of the whole thing, and a third party has an option to buy the property, with incentives to buy sooner rather than later.

I think I have that all correct…

Curbed: Someone Just Bought Greenpoint’s Sweater Factory Lofts
Brownstoner: Greenpoint’s Sweater Factory Lofts on Banker St Sells

Now At 39 Meserole Avenue: The Factory Building

February 14, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Yes gentle readers, it would appear the place formerly known as the Sweater Factory Lofts is not only continuing its brave endeavor to press a transient hotel into service as residential space, but now it has a new address, new name and these will set you back an additional $700.00 plus a month! The newly christened Factory Lofts listing on Street Easy (as seen above) can be perused by clicking here. Please do take a moment to give this a read. Follows is a sample of the ad copy which awaits your delectation:

The lofts at The FACTORY BUILDING are made for unique individuals. Each loft apartment remains different, and there are endless opportunities to divide, reimagine and design your own personal space. Yes, we’ve thrown in new amenities to make sure that you’re living in modern comfort, but how you decide to live is up to you. These are raw, chic spaces ready for you to make your mark.
Another huge perk of The FACTORY BUILDING lofts is the preservation of old windows from when the building was a factory. Come for a viewing on a bright day. Sunlight pours through the windows and adds a wonderful aura to the spaces. We’ve reinsulated and reinstalled all apartment fixtures, so you get old world ambiance with new improvements.

These words struck me as being eerily familiar. After a little research I discovered why:

It is the same exact ad copy used to pitch the Sweater Factory Lofts in 2009! And of course we all know what came of “old world ambiance meets new improvements” that time around…

 Caveat emptor, apartment hunters.

From The New York Shitty Inbox: Apartments For Rent At 239 Banker?

January 8, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

An anonymous tipster writes:

Hello Heather,

I’ve been apartment hunting in Greenpoint and responded to this Craigslist ad about a “newly converted warehouse”:

http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/abo/2786376022.html

The agent set up a showing with me today, and told me to meet her at the corner of Meserole and Franklin. When I arrived, she was 10 minutes late, so I called her phone and she told me to come meet her outside of 239 Banker.

Well I know quite a bit about 239 Banker, thanks to your blog. And I couldn’t resist going in and having a look-see.

I asked the agent whether this is the same building where all the tenants were forced out because the building was unsafe/illegal. She tried dodging the question at first but eventually conceded that it was in fact the same building. I then asked her if the building was still owned by the same guy, and whether it was up to code/legal. She assured me it was and that he had fixed all of those issues.

She showed me a number of units on the 4th floor, all priced between $3000 for a moderately-sized studio loft up to $3300 for a larger loft, and apparently all prices are negotiable. In fact when I told her I’d looked at a different loft building on Kent (59 Kent), she pressed me for details on how much they were charging for units there.

I’d say the units seem semi-habitable. Some looked as though they’d recently been spruced up, most did not yet have any appliances, and the laundry rooms did not have any machines in them. One unit still had evidence of the old tenants- a makeshift lofted space still intact, and some artwork left sitting above the kitchen cabinets.

One unit I looked at literally had a hole in the brick wall about the size of a baseball that went straight through to the outdoors. I joked that perhaps there were squirrels living in the unit. The agent did not seem amused.

Many of the floors showed signs of water/environmental damage. They were uneven in many units, and peeling up in others. It’s actually quite sad, because the space could be very nice. The original details are great, and the square footage of the units are pretty well-sized.

Anyways, I thought I’d let you know because I’m VERY curious to know if 239 Banker is legally habitable. Regardless, I won’t be renting there given the history of the building.

To address Anonymous’s question, the answer is an emphatic NO.

239 Banker Street is located in an Industrial Business Zone. Curiously enough, hotels are permissible in such areas (take the proliferation of such establishments on the Northside, for example). Residential property, however, is not. The owners of 239 Banker Street could seek a zoning variance through our local Community Board to make this arrangement legal. (They haven’t.) They can also file paperwork with the Department of Buildings to “convert” this manufacturing property into residential. This they tried…

and it was declined. Inasmuch as I can ascertain work has been conducted on this property without the auspices of any applicable permits whatsoever. Peruse the permits on file and see for yourself. This just goes to show if something strikes you as being amiss about an apartment you are viewing, gentle readers, it is best to go with those instincts (and consult the Department of Buildings’s Building Information System).

Caveat emptor, apartment shoppers.

UPDATE, January 9, 2012: It would appear this tome has come to the attention of a former resident. Here’s what he/she has to say:

Hilarious! Those pictures (well, two of them) are of my former pad pre-vacate order.

Classy.

UPDATE, January 9, 2012; 5:40 p.m.: A tipster found these units listed on Street Easy.

He/she writes:

FYI

All units are up on street easy as available.  I started a discussion at the bottom.  Good looking out.

While this is clearly a listing from the previous owner, it is informative nonetheless. In 2009 these “units” went for $2,100 plus. Three years later you can have the luxury of living in this illegal apartment building at the starting price of $3,000 a month! Nice.

P.S.: In the event the above-mentioned apartment advertisement is removed by Craigslist, you can view a screencap of it by clicking here. Do give it a read. Your truly’s favorite passage is as follows:

Several units to choose from at this point! Some are complete 2 or 3 bedrooms while other are beautiful open spaces.

One has to admire this rather artful spin on an illegal (and unfinished) apartment building. And yes, there are plenty of units to choose from after a building has been, say, vacated by the Department of Buildings for conditions imminently perilous to human life. Genius!

From The New York Shitty Inbox, Part II: Signs of Life at The Sweater Factory Lofts?

December 28, 2010 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

The tipster who took the above photograph writes:

Open? Vacate notices removed and door propped open. There’s even someone shoveling sidewalk out front.

New York Shitty “glass half full” analysis:

At least they are cleaning the sidewalk.

New York Shitty “glass half empty” analysis:

There is still a Vacate Order on this property.

Whoops.

Miss Heather

Reader Comment Du Jour: Advice For Someone DOB’d From The Sweater Factory Lofts?

October 13, 2009 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

239bankerMost folks (myself included) would consider the evacuation of 239 Banker Street to be yesterday’s news. However, when the following comment came to my attention today I simply had to post it here.  Action writes:

The vacate happened 3 days before I was supposed to move in. I’m working with Brooklyn Civil Court to start the process to get my money back. Does anyone know of alternative routes to take? Maybe a class action case?

I do not profess to be an attorney (or even playing one on t.v.). Although I have some tenant-landlord court experience Action’s problem is way off my radar. Does anyone have some advice or thoughts for Action? If so please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Miss Heather

BREAKING: The Sweater Factory Lofts Gets DOB’d Again!

September 24, 2009 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Remember the Sweater Factory Lofts?

SFLscreencap

You know, the building at 239 Banker Street that is zoned as a hotel but is actuality being used as residential space? The one which despite being fined $5,000 for violating a long standing Stop Work Order kept on working anyway? Day and night. Well, something very interesting came to pass there this afternoon.

vacate1

Anonymous writes (at 3:19 p.m.):

Breaking news! That building next to what was studio B is being served vacated notice right now….

ousted

Unhappy residents on an unpaid vacate(ion). I’m sure Curbed will be interested. Building dept guys didn’t like me snapping pics.

WOW. I wonder how my buddy Max took the news? Just under two weeks ago he sold the Greenpoint Hotel for a paltry $3.5 millionand now this!?! I’m not too sure what motivated the Department of Buildings to issue a vacate order but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say non-compliance with fire code had something to do with it.

Miss Heather

UPDATE, 5:27 p.m.: Apparently the Red Cross has been brought in to help displaced tenants from this building (pets and all) find a place to hang their respective hats. Per a reader:

The DOB showed up today, I think, around 2, and cleared the whole building. There’s an order to vacate posted on the front (“occupancy is perilous to life”), and a  (new?) stop work order plastered on the front door, plus about a 6 yellow sheets that I didn’t get close enough to read, mainly because all the tenants were trying to read them. Probably on their arrival home from work. I do feel a bit bad for those who moved in without a clue what they were getting themselves into.*

The Red Cross is outside finding people places to live, the landlord is scurrying around, and the tenants are outside with suitcases and their cats in carriers.

Curious what finally caused the DOB to crack down?

UPDATE, 7:29 p.m.: Musings on ‘point offers his expertise:

It’s not a fire issue, FD would have been present. It’s probably a combo of two things: it’s a factory, not a residence and structural issues; the facade seems to be falling off.  The DOB is loathe to vacate solely because of occupancy contrary to the CO (see 475 Kent) but “perilous” is usually code for “we think it might fall down.” I haven’t been following this or researched it but that would be my guess. If it’s not, I wouldn’t want to be living at 475, because they’re just as susceptible to just such selective enforcement.

*I agree. The Red Cross should NOT be pressed into providing housing to individuals whose only mistake was not being informed consumers. This organization was not founded to assist people who have found themselves homeless as a result of a landlord’s malfeasance and this city’s ineptitude and/or lack of responsiveness when it comes to protecting and serving its citizens. The blame for should be laid where it is truly due:

  1. This city and the agencies charged with enforcing housing/building/fire code. Had the standing Stop Work Order on this property been enforced, this would never had happened.
  2. The landlord: for not obeying the the aforementioned Stop Work Order and having a disregard for the safety of his tenants.
  3. The real estate agents who leased out these “residential” lofts knowing full well that they are illegal and hazardous. Anything for a buck.

UPDATE, 11:44 p.m.: another reader sends photographs:

redcrossNYSsmall

DEREKLEE1

Maybe this one will stick?

New York Shitty Day Ender: It’s Move In Day At 239 Banker Street!

May 31, 2009 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

239bankerst

On May 31, 2009 Anonymous wrote:

i saw residents moving into the illegal, non-c-of-o, stop work ordered 239 Banker (neighbor of 259 Banker Street— better known as Studio B*— the edifice graced with the blue sidewalk shed in the background of the above photograph— Ed. Note) yesterday afternoon. Saw the Uhaul, asked the question myself. called in the complaint. they are advertising on C(raigs)L(ist):

nofeenysrev2

Indeed they are! (To view a larger image click on the above jpg or any of the following jpgs.) What’s more, this hotel— oh, I mean loft— has its own web site! Here are some highlights:

buildingnys

Most importantly, no matter what time of day you come home, there will be a safe and cozy environment upon your return.

Hmm... this sounds kind of familiar. Wait— I remember— the Greenpoint Hotel has been advertising “safe and cozy” rooms for some time. Coincidence, you ask? Hardly: 239 Banker and the Greenpoint Hotel are both owned by my good buddy Max Stark! Let’s see what’s on the “Lofts” page, shall we?

loftsnys

From dinner parties to a quick fix after work, you’ll never be lacking space and functionality for your culinary excursions.

Heh, heh, heh… they said “fix”!

neighborhoodnys

Ten minutes from the Bedford Avenue stop of the L? That’s kind of a stretch. But then again so is securing a permit from the Department of Buildings under the auspices of converting a manufacturing space into a “transient hotel”, offering two bedroom units for $2,100 a month in a building which— did I mention this already— has no Certificate of Occupancy?

Not that I really blame Max. If an illegal hostel can exist at 184 Eagle Street— for MONTHSdespite numerous complaints to the Department of Buildings why shouldn’t he get in on the fun?

But what would I know? My apartment building doesn’t have washer/dryer units on every floor. Maybe I should live in a hotel instead?

Miss Heather

UPDATE, June 2, 2009: After learning the very questionable legal status of 239 Banker Street Nicole has ceased to be the real estate agent for this property. No worries, now Liz is one the job…

penske

and it would appear someone else is moving in.

*Whose rooftop terrace is still getting 311 complaints.

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