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There wasn’t exactly news in the big profile New York Magazine ran about Jed and David Walentas and their Brooklyn development company Two Trees, but it’s an interesting read and documents the elder Walentas’ extraordinary rise from a Dickensian childhood upstate. He lived and worked on a farm away from his family beginning at age five to help his family make ends meet after his father had a stroke.

The story suggests that the firm — a prime mover in the resurgence of Brooklyn because of its development of Dumbo and the Wythe Hotel — may now be losing out to bigger bidders from Manhattan, such as Jared Kushner. But be that as it may, the redevelopment of the Domino site will keep the firm busy for many years to come.

The elder Walentas had some harsh words for de Blasio, which the author of the piece captured as the two were sparring over Domino earlier this year:

“I think de Blasio’s a disaster for the city,” said David Walentas. “His whole administration are amateurs and left wing. He’s never run anything and he has no ideas. All he wants to do is get his name in the paper.”

Two Trees issued this statement after the story came out, which Capital New York included in an email:

All of the statements in this story were made in the heat of intense negotiations. We believe the outcome of those negotiations was mutually beneficial and we are grateful for the opportunity to build this great plan. We fully support Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan and vision for supporting mixed-use communities in New York City, which has always been and will always be core to our approach at Two Trees, and have the deepest respect for him, his ambitious goals and his talented team. We look forward to working in support of those goals in the months and years to come at Domino and across the city.

The Flying Walentases Devour Domino, Extend Brooklyn Domination [NY Mag]
Rendering by SHoP

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Architect Philipp Mohr, whose design studio is based in Williamsburg, worked with Menachem Stark on a number of projects, including five in the last two years. Most were interior design for apartment buildings; all were located in Brooklyn. Above, a design for the renovation of the lobby at 100 South 4th Street in Williamsburg. “I worked very closely with him on a weekly basis and knew him very well,” he said. He writes:

Max met me through a friend who recommended my office to him. Max was very exclusive and would only work with people that he knew or that were recommended. But even when new people were recommended to him he’d rather go back to the old people he already knew, even if they were more expensive.

Generally he was very warm and funny, always very busy and a go getter. He was never mean or in any way offensive. He always signed our proposals and contracts and paid on time. He was always extremely busy and meetings in our office with him lasted a few minutes and then he was either on the phone with someone or he left again. He would usually bring an assistant with him. Often he would pick me up somewhere with his van and look at our design proposals in between driving to a site, being on the phone, meeting someone or driving to a store to pick out appliances or construction materials. (more…)

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The body of prominent Hasidic developer and landlord Menachem Stark, who was kidnapped Thursday during the snowstorm, was found in a dumpster at a Long Island gas station; the funeral took place over the weekend in Williamsburg and was attended by more than 1,000 people.

Reports alleged Stark had a pattern of buying property, defaulting on the mortgage — and then relatives and business associates would purchase the property at a low price. He was a notorious slumlord in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. At one point he owned the Greenpoint Hotel, an SRO with a reputation for open drug dealing and overdoses, which was seized by the feds in 2005. He also owned the Sweater Factory at 239 Banker Street, an illegal conversion which continued to advertise and rent out units even after the city evicted the tenants for unsafe conditions and they lost their four-month security deposits. (“An inspector found workers had plastered over fire sprinkler heads,” said the Times.)

We had a memorably strange encounter with his organization in the fall of 2012, (more…)

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We’ve been wondering what this space would be since the sign above appeared at 306 Malcolm X Boulevard months ago. It looked like a restaurant but we heard it was a real estate development company. Lo and behold, it is — Boaz Gilad’s latest, in fact, Brookland Capital. (He is president.)

Looks like Gilad may have bought the building. In January, it sold for $920,000 to an entity called 306 M X B Realty Corp. When we dropped by recently, there were a dozen or more guys milling around inside a narrow office. A few doors closer to Decatur, construction was under way on a reception area and conference room, below. The reception desk is made of a wood salvaged from old beams, and there is a huge conference table and a chandelier in the back of the space.

Another sign of Bed Stuy’s hotness? GMAP (more…)

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A report from nonprofit Cause of Action charges that Forest City Enterprises has received huge government subsidies in exchange for political contributions, The New York Post was the first to report. However, the report fails to show a direct cause and effect. Even Atlantic Yards Report, which has been critical of the group’s Atlantic Yards Development, said the findings were a little too simplistic. “It should come as no surprise that we support candidates whose policies promote economic development and job creation,” said a spokesman for Forest City quoted in the Post. “However, to suggest or imply a direct connection between this support and our opportunities as a company is baseless and defamatory.”

Barclays Builder “Pay to Play” [NY Post]


Silvershore Properties, a Manhattan-based developer, recently picked up four Brooklyn buildings over the last three months that they’re planning to renovate and reposition. This spring Silvershore purchased 278 Dean Street, between 3rd Avenue and Nevins Street in Boerum Hill, for $1,300,000. It’s an 8,000-square-foot, four-story building with eight units. They also bought 219 13th Street, between 4th and 5th avenues in Park Slope, for $5,250,000. That one’s a 22,000 square-foot, six-story building with 25 units. The other two properties closed in June. They are 115 Atlantic Avenue, between Henry and Hicks streets, and 32 Garnet Street, between Court and Smith streets. The property on Atlantic (pictured above) is a four-story, 5,000-square-foot building with a duplex apartment, additional full-floor apartment and ground floor retail. It sold for $2,000,000, and was the first sale of the building in almost 40 years. Finally, the four-story, eight-unit property on Garnet Street closed for $1,200,000.


According to Gowanus Your Face Off, Verizon cleared its trucks out of the large lot it previously occupied in Gowanus, an entire block bordered by Nevins, Carroll, Union Streets and the Gowanus Canal. Verizon has used the space as a hub for field technicians since 1977 and is relocating to a facility on 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street. The 100,000-square-foot lot sold to a housing developer for $14 million last December. For now, the developer plans to just lease out the space. But it’s right across the canal from Lightstone’s massive 700-unit rental project, so there’s likely to be more waterfront development here in the neighborhood’s future…
Verizon Vacates Gowanus Lot It Has Occupied Since 1977 [GYFO]
Photo via GYFO

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On Untapped Cities, Julia Vitullo-Martin has posted some remarkable interior photos of the Domino Sugar refinery. And she talked with Two Trees developer Jed Walentas about some of the challenges he’ll face transforming the empty industrial site into his vision for a residential and office complex. One of the real challenges will be converting the main brick building. She writes: “For one thing, it has no real floors and no real internal structure, but is instead ‘just a weird labyrinthine of equipment, much of which is completely integrated with the structure of the building,’ says Walentas. Massively big equipment will have to be removed and new space constructed within the empty shell of the building.” See a picture of some of that equipment after the jump and lots more on the Untapped Cities site.

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Buyers at 659 Bergen Street (or at least the people that have signed contracts and hope to be buyers) continue to be stalled in their efforts to close on their apartments and finally occupy their homes. Many of these deals were signed in 2011 and buyers have been waiting over a year to get in. A tipster tells us that the developer of the Prospect Heights project, Boaz Gilad, has been saying that they will get the Certificate of Occupancy soon for well over a year now but it has yet to happen. On January 11, the realtor marketing the units, Aguayo Huebener, sent signers an email indicating that the building had passed all inspections and that they should start scheduling their own inspections and prepare for closing. Unfortunately, it turns out, the building had one more inspection to go. A few weeks later the building failed its gas system inspection on nine separate points. The realtor then forwarded questions from the signers to Gilad and emailed them his responses (which the tipster provided to us). He complained that the inspector with the buildings department (which he calls the plumbing department) “decided he wants to check all the plumbing again, and ALTHOUGH it was approved, he didn’t like the hot water system. We have no power to stop him from failing us…” The building failed the inspection primarily due to the venting of hot water heaters.

Several frustrated buyers have reported to DOB that somebody (the tipster says Gilad himself) has actually moved into the building despite the lack of a C of O. Several complaints (here, here and here) have been filed with the DOB on this point and though inspectors have visited the building they have been unable to gain access and therefore no action has been taken. The gas inspector also noted in his report that he was unable to access the fifth floor, the unit that is allegedly being occupied. In addition to all of this, our tipster says a few signers have been allowed to backed out of their contracts–but not to flip them for current market values. Instead, the units have been getting relisted for quite a bit more than the original asking price and our tipster says some have gone back into contract. For example, our tipster tells us, and Street Easy appears to confirm, that Unit 2D went into contract when the asking price was $369,000 in 2011 and was in contract again in December when the asking price was $449,000. Our tipster says it went into contract for $460,000.

Gilad is out of town and could not be reached for comment, however a representative from the marketer’s firm did say that the developer very much wants to obtain the C of O and close on the sales, that he is trying hard to make that happen and that there is no advantage to not closing on the properties. See a picture of the top unit with the lights on after the jump.
Buyers in Limbo at Prospect Heights Building [Brownstoner] (more…)

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Two Trees Management has a new vision for the former Domino Sugar Plant. While all of the previous plans have been purely residential, as has nearly all of the development in Williamsburg over the last decade, Two Trees now wants to include a significant office space component. The company is proposing space for up to 4,000 workers according to the The Wall Street Journal. This comes at a time when small businesses have been complaining about the lack of office space in the neighborhood. Jed Walentas, founder of Two Trees, is critical of the purely residential development that has dominated in Williamsburg and Long Island City. He told the Journal, “they don’t make great urban places, they don’t integrate into the neighborhoods. What we’re trying really, really hard to do here is to mix in enough commercial office space to give this neighborhood and this community a sense of that feeling of vitality.” Any change to the existing residential plan would require approval from City Council and city agencies. Councilman Stephen Levin is supportive of the idea.

Back to Work At Domino Factory [WSJ]
Brooklyn’s Office Space Crunch [Brownstoner]


The warehouse at 246 Ashland Place is finito, after the DOB approved demolition permits in November. Now that it’s gone, there’s space for two coming developments. A small part of the parcel will be dedicated to the visual arts plaza outside of the Theater for a New Audience, now under construction. But a majority of the site (now a parking lot) is for the North Tower I. This site will be developed by the Gotham Organization and DT Salazar Inc., who plan for 600 new residences, half of which will be affordable. This development will also include 20,000 square feet of cultural and related office space and 20,000 square feet of retail space. The city recently released an RFP for North Tower II, which will bound the southern end of the arts plaza. And then of course there’s the BAM South Site, across from Lafayette Avenue, where the Two Trees developers recently started up the land use review process. Click through to the jump for a very helpful map outlining how the city-owned property will be divvied up. One other note: Yesterday the Brooklyn Paper reported the city has yet to rule on Two Trees’ request for a zoning change to allow more housing at the site, which we covered in December.

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At least seven of the construction companies that worked on Atlantic Yards are on New York City’s caution list, DNAinfo found in an analysis of public records. Two are banned from contracting with the City’s School Construction Authority. Private developers are not required to check the list before hiring. None of the firms landed on the list for work performed on Atlantic Yards. But four were already on the list while working there, the story said. Above, Barclays Center under construction in August.
Shady Firms Flagged by City Helped Build Barclays [DNAinfo]