Here's the latest this week from Steve Cuozzo in the Post:
Moinian in crosshairs
By STEVE CUOZZO
Last Updated: 1:42 AM, July 5, 2011
Posted: 12:38 AM, July 5, 2011
Poor Joseph Moinian. In parts of Midtown you might think he's Public Enemy No. 1.
A small fire on Thursday at 237 W. 54th St., a 5-story building he's demolishing, drew a dozen FDNY engines and emergency trucks to the block, snarling traffic and adding to jitters at a next-door address where tenants fear for their safety.
"There was a lot of smoke and we're all nervous wrecks," said a resident at 243 W. 54th who didn't wish to be named.
The firefighters followed another recent visitor to the demo site: a giant inflatable rat set up outside no. 237 by Local 73 to protest Moinian's using a non-union crew. Moinian -- who controls 20 million square feet of property in the US valued at $10 billion -- is razing no. 237 to put up a 34-story hotel.
Then, on Friday, posters popped up outside the Moinian-owned 535 Fifth Ave. accusing Moinian of owing money to contractors at the W Downtown Hotel, which he opened last year on Liberty Street. A rep for Moinian declined to comment on the fire or the posters.
Apartments tenants can be jumpy when they fear a threat to their rent-controlled or rent- stabilized status, but you can't blame the 20-odd residents of 243 W. 54th from being on edge.
The four-story building, also owned by Moinian, is sandwiched between two large ongoing projects. In a few months, Boston Properties will start construction of 250 W. 55th St., a 1 million square- foot office tower that will abut no. 243's western wall. Boston reinforced the wall a few years ago after it sued Moinian for initially not giving it access to no. 243 to perform the work.
But no. 243's tenants are more worried for the moment about the demolition of no. 237 to the east. Melanie, a tenant who didn't want her last name used, said, "It feels like earthquakes and bombs going off next door." Another tenant, Joanne Lockman, e- mailed us, "Waking up to a swaying building is scary on a good day."
Some tenants suspect that Moinian, rather than actually build a hotel, filed his plan in order to induce the owners of an even larger hotel project at the corner of Broadway and 54th Street to buy him out first. The 67-story Marriott, to be completed by late 2013, is being built by Harry Gross's Broadway Granite Development.
Tenants at no. 243 say Moinian's project would rise to half the Marriott's height and block views from it. (Gross didn't return our call.) The tenants also note that Moinian's hotel plan has yet to be approved by the Buildings Dept.
Even more darkly, some tenants fear that were an accident to occur during demolition of no. 237, it could force them to leave their building for good -- theoretically paving the way for Moinian to sell the two adjacent addresses for much more than the sum of what they're fetch individually.
Melanie, the tenant, said, "I feel there's a risk of losing the apartment. If there's structural damage to our building, which is 100 years old, then we'd have to evacuate." Moinian has demolition permits and there are no current violations.
Moinian has fought his way out of a debt squeeze at several Manhattan properties recently including 3 Columbus Circle, where SL Green rescued him from being pushed out by Related Cos.
Last week's fire was quickly contained, said FDNY spokesman Paul Iannizzotto. "It was on the first floor and brought under control within 20 minutes," he said, adding that the fire was not deemed to be suspicious.
Meanwhile, at least two Moini an-bashing posters were taped to planters outside 535 Fifth Ave. at East 45th Street.
Under the heading, "123 Washington/W New York Downtown," a comic-strip balloon over a picture of George Washington read, "I cannot tell a lie -- Joe Moinian does not pay his bills. The Moinian Group refuses to pay its contractors for work already completed."
It was unclear who the aggrieved contractors were. The posters were removed within hours.
Doral Financial Corp. has more than doubled its space at Charles S. Cohen's 623 Fifth Ave., taking the entire 14,486 square-foot 19th floor for a total of nearly 30,000 feet. Asking rents in the tower overlooking Saks Fifth Avenue run from the $80s to over $100 a square foot. firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/busines...#ixzz1RXA691Wg