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Web hits: The month in Review

01/01/2010, By Candace Taylor

Web hits: The month in review

January 01, 2010 07:00AM


20 Bayard, right
20 Bayard, right

Inability to refinance pushed 20 Bayard into bankruptcy, court documents show 

After months of trying to keep his Williamsburg condominium project afloat on rental income, developer Isaac Hager threw 20 Bayard into bankruptcy after he was unable to refinance the building loan or support the building's monthly debt with outside funds, according to court documents obtained by The Real Deal

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court by Martin Ehrenfeld -- director of sales and marketing at North Development and restructuring officer of 20 Bayard Views LLC, the entity that controls the condo -- Hager was unable to refinance a $17 million mortgage loan from Manhattan-based lender W Financial Fund. He was also unable to make a $170,000 interest payment and $85,000 extension fee that would have extended the loan until Jan. 13, 2010. 

Hager originally launched plans for 20 Bayard in 2005, which was one in a trio of condo projects that included the Aurora at 30 Bayard and the Icon at 50 Bayard, all designed by architect Karl Fischer. The block became known as Karl Fischer Row, commanding more than $860 per square foot, the top asking prices in Williamsburg history. 

"Certainly it started out as a very prime project and people very much wanted to move into this particular building," Fischer, who said he had not been notified of the bankruptcy, told The Real Deal

The filing shows total assets of $21 million, which include 37 condo units and 40 parking spaces, and liabilities of $18 million. The debtor's assets are owned by Hager, investor Jack Weingarten and the estate of Chaim Lax.  By David Jones

Socialite Lily Safra sells for $40M, buys for $33M at 820 Fifth Avenue 

In a high-end game of musical chairs last month, socialite and philanthropist Lily Safra sold one cooperative apartment at 820 Fifth Avenue at 63rd Street for $40 million to a hedge fund manager and on the same day bought another in the same building for $33 million from home-building CEO Ara Hovnanian. 

Safra closed on the sale of the 12th-floor unit to Kenneth Griffin as well as the purchase of the fourth-floor unit from Hovnanian, CEO of Hovnanian Enterprises, on Dec. 16, city property records published last month show. Residential real estate Web site first reported the $40 million Safra sale. 

Reports from October said Griffin, founder of the $13 billion hedge fund Citadel Investment Group, was going to buy Hovnanian's fourth-floor unit, but instead he bought Safra's, city records show. Safra is the widow of Edmond Safra, a billionaire banker. 
Hovnanian Enterprises is in a difficult financial period, reporting last month its 13th consecutive quarterly loss.  By Adam Pincus

Prolific Brooklyn restaurateur's empire shrinks 

Three restaurants started by Brooklyn's most prolific restaurateur, Jim Mamary, and one of his partners, Richard Krause, were abruptly closed last month with no warning to employees. And another of their Brooklyn eateries, the troubled seafood spot Trout, is unlikely to reopen after it was shuttered early last fall due to slow business. 

Employees at Fly Fish in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Bueno in Boerum Hill said they were stunned to hear at staff meetings Dec. 1 that the shift would be their last. 

Bueno, a European bistro that Krause opened several months ago at the intersection of Smith and Pacific streets, is part of a complex that also included Trout; the restaurant Since 1963, which also closed last month; and Pacifico. Pacifico, a Mexican cantina Mamary no longer owns a stake in, will remain open. 

"They said they needed to pull in $17,000 by week's end and they were only pulling in $13,000," said an employee at Bueno, who requested anonymity. "Now I'm back to square one, looking for a job." 

Mamary has had a hand in creating at least 23 restaurants in the borough since his first Brooklyn venture, the Italian eatery Restaurant 101, opened in Bay Ridge two decades ago. 

Sometimes he merely helped design and build the spaces, while he sold his stake in others, and 11 of his restaurants have closed or were transformed into new ventures. 

For now, he owns a stake in five restaurants: Gowanus Yacht Club, Zombie Hut and Black Mountain Wine House in Carroll Gardens, Café Enduro in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Pomme de Terre in Ditmas Park. 

But his immediate plans include moving his family from Ditmas Park to New Jersey, and pulling out of day-to-day operations in Brooklyn. 

"I'm going to try, at this stage of my career, to just really build and design, and find the right person to run it and/or [take over]," Mamary said. "The days of me owning and operating are over."  By Sarah Ryley

'Top Model' finalist wins free 240 Central Park South rental 

New York City landlord James Korein has never seen the hit CW television show "America's Next Top Model." 

So when he was asked to donate an apartment as a prize for one of the contestants, he had to ask his 20-something-year-old daughters what they thought of the idea. 

The women were excited and told him to do it, Korein told The Real Deal

"People seem to be very tuned in to this show," said Korein, whose family owns a number of properties in Manhattan. "We thought it sounded like an interesting promotional opportunity." 

Sure enough, "Top Model" contestant Laura Kirkpatrick will be moving into a studio at Korein's prewar building, 240 Central Park South, sometime in the next few months, and living there rent-free under a six-month lease. 

Kirkpatrick, raised on a farm in Kentucky, earned money castrating bulls before she was selected as a contestant on "Top Model." She received the prize after being voted "Fan Favorite" in November by viewers of "The Tyra Banks Show," the talk show hosted by "Top Model" host Tyra Banks. "Top Model" is in talks with Korein about filming her move into the building. 

Korein said he views the show as a way to increase his building's exposure with younger people. The rental building, which has a mix of one- and two-bedrooms and studios, has lost some of its younger tenants as the recession has hit New York. 

"This last year has been hard on younger people," he said. "We've had a bit of attrition due to the market." By Candace Taylor

Ferrari says Benjamin James to stay in business, try new model 

James Ferrari, the founder of Benjamin James Real Estate, said he is reinvigorating the ailing company with an injection of capital and a radically altered business plan he claims would give three-quarters of the company's profits to charity. 

A former male model, Ferrari left the 16-year-old company in the hands of top executive Douglas Wagner for the past few years while he focused on other pursuits, like philanthropy, music and his media company, Ferrari Media Production. 

"I couldn't have told you two years ago who worked at my company because I was on the West Coast or South Africa," Ferrari said. 

With the financial crisis, however, the business struggled, closing two of its three offices within a year, and Wagner recently announced plans to leave, as The Real Deal first reported. Ferrari considered closing the company, he said, but instead has decided to step back in to manage its day-to-day operations. He said he is planning to put a significant amount of capital into the business -- "whatever it takes" to get it up and running. He is also planning to reopen the company's Soho office, which closed over a year ago, and has begun making overdue payments to creditors (including The Real Deal). 

"The future of the company is much more stable than it was six months ago," Ferrari said by phone from the company's current headquarters at 120 West 21st Street. 

But there's one major difference. This time around, Ferrari said, he is committed to transforming the company into a socially conscious venture that will give some 75 percent of its profits -- after agents and bills have been paid -- to charitable organizations Ferrari supports, such as the AIDS research group amfAR, the nonprofit organization Color Me In! and Housing Works. The company will not technically be a nonprofit organization, he said. 

Industry experts expressed skepticism that such an approach would work, especially in a tough economy. "I don't know how they could do that, from a business perspective," said real estate consultant Kathy Braddock of Braddock + Purcell, who noted that she hasn't seen a similar approach in New York City.  

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