A Year Later, Tribeca Landmark Still Languishes

the landmarked building at 287 Broadway is distinguished by its high mansard roof and arched windows, separated by iconic columns.
Carl Glassman
the landmarked building at 287 Broadway is distinguished by its high mansard roof and arched windows, separated by iconic columns.

There is a picture of Santa in the pizza shop window at Broadway and Reade Street, and along a row of tables lies a strand of tinsel. Not unusual for this time of year. But these decorations were meant for last year’s holiday, the one that never came to 287 Broadway.

Time stands still in the building, a 1872 cast iron landmark that housed the pizza store, shoe repair and photo shops and several tenants upstairs. On Nov. 29, 2007, the Department of Buildings slapped vacate orders on the windows and abruptly emptied the building of its workers and tenants. The structure, an inspection showed, was shifting southward and the city feared that it would collapse.

Excavation work for a new 20-story residential building that would wrap around 287 Broadway to Reade Street is blamed for destabilizing the building. A stop-work order has largely halted construction there for more than a year.

Hunter-Atlantic, working for the developer John Buck Company, erected steel bracing on 287 Broadway to prevent further tipping and today, more than half a year since the foundation for the new building was to be completed, the site remains a deep, quiet pit.

The activity now is in court. 

“Everyone is blaming the other for what caused the problem and no one wants to step forward to offer to compensate [my client],” said David Jaroslawicz, lawyer for the owner of the pizza store, the Yenem Corp., who is suing the developer and the excavation company, Hunter-Atlantic.

Luis Guaman, who owns the shoe repair shop next door, is still out of work. He has yet to be compensated for his equipment that was destroyed by a frozen pipe that burst, he said, and he is on the brink of defaulting on the mortgage on his Queens home.

“My father is really depressed. He can’t think of anything but his work,” said his daughter, Sugeydi, who speaks for Guaman because of his limited English. “He comes into Manhattan every day, goes around to check for stores.”

Guaman’s lawyer, Richard Marx, has yet to bring a suit on his client’s behalf. His only comment to the Trib was to say that he intends to join in the action against the developer taken by the pizza store.

 

Luis Guaman, owner of a closed shoe repair shop at 287 Broadway, at home with his wife, Miriam, daughter Badgely Sugeydi and son Reyluis.
Allan Tannenbaum / Tribeca Trib
Luis Guaman, owner of a closed shoe repair shop at 287 Broadway, at home with his wife, Miriam, daughter Badgely Sugeydi and son Reyluis.

“We’re about to commence a suit,” he said.

Cora Cohen, an artist who has lived in the building since 1972 at below-market rent that is protected by the city’s Loft Law, is one of two residential tenants suing the building’s owner, the Randall Co. That company is an affiliate of Cortland Realty Co., the real estate arm of the Gindi family, owners of Century 21 Department Store.

Cohen is in housing court with claims that the landlord is dragging its  feet in working with the developer to come up with a plan to make the building safe so that Cohen can return home.

In her suit, she claims the owner “intentionally and/or negligently” has failed to do what is needed on their part towards permanently shoring the building and making it habitable.
“There’s not clarity about whether the owner is opposing or cooperating with the developer,” said Cohen’s lawyer, Arlene Boop. A hearing was scheduled for Dec. 1 to demand from the landlord a “date certain” for Cohen’s return to the building, Boop said.

In the meantime, Cohen’s landlord and the developer next door are suing each other, with claims by Randall that the developer was negligent and the developer charging that the foundation was already in a weakened state.

A rendering of the residential building planned to wrap around the corner of Broadway and Reade Street, behind the landmark 287 building.
SLCE Architects
A rendering of the residential building planned to wrap around the corner of Broadway and Reade Street, behind the landmark 287 building.

The John Buck Company also maintains that it is the fault of the excavator Hunter-Atlantic who, in turn, blames five different subcontractors. 

“This is going to take years of litigation. Lawyers are going to bill a lot of hours,” Abraham Jaros, partner in the firm representing the pizza store, argued in court earlier this year in an unsuccessful plea for a hastened decision. “We, however, as the innocent plaintiff, should not be in the middle of this.”

Representatives of Randall Co., John Buck Co. and Hunter-Atlantic did not return calls for comment.
It is not clear what is required to happen before the Department of Buildings lifts its vacate order on 287 Broadway, or a partial stop-work order on the residential building next door. On Nov. 19, the Trib submitted several questions to the Department of Buildings about the fate of 287 Broadway as well as results of recent inspections of the building, if any, that measures further movement of the building. By press time on Dec. 1 there still had been no response.

According to Boop, the new building is expected to have risen to the 6th floor by next June, providing 287 Broadway with permanent support.

Designated a landmark in 1988, 287 Broadway is one of the city’s few surviving examples of cast iron Italianate and French Second Empire architecture. Its large arched windows provide extraordinary light.

That was something that drew Cora Cohen to the sixth-floor loft she rented in 1972.

Does she believe she will ever get to return to it? “I think, if I live long enough,” she replied.