Battery Park City Hotel Operator Implodes Amid Allegations of Fraud
The Wagner Hotel, in Battery Park City, owes millions of dollars to the Battery Park City Authority and New York State tax collectors.
Even by the standards of the distressed hotel industry, the spiraling adversity faced by the owners of the Wagner Hotel in Battery Park City is remarkable.
In October, lenders and investors filed suit against Los Angeles-based Urban Commons, the firm that bought the hotel in 2018 for $147 million, some $100 million of which was in the form of a loan from the seller, Westbrook Partners. The suit alleges that executives of the company accepted $1 million from an investor, which was intended to finance hotel acquisitions that never took place, and then refused to return the original funds.
These accusations echo those contained in a 2020 suit filed by two other investors, who alleged that Urban Commons executives promised them a 70 percent return on an investment of $750,000, which was earmarked for helping to bankroll the firm’s purchase of the Wagner Hotel. In that event, the investors claim never to have received profits or payments of any kind, and say that the firm broke off contact when they demanded their money back.
Also in October, the company was named by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance as one of its largest business-tax delinquents, citing unpaid taxes of more than $392,000 related specifically to its operation of the Wagner Hotel.
In June, the city of Long Beach, California seized from Urban Commons the Queen Mary, the historic ocean liner permanently moored there, after the company failed to maintain and preserve the vessel (which is designated as a floating landmark) and operate it as a cultural and tourist destination, in compliance with a lease signed in 2016. An investigation by Long Beach’s auditor found that Urban Commons had “intentionally and explicitly misrepresented” its finances, after the municipal government had issued $23 million in bonds to help the firm upgrade the ship.
In May, the Fitch bond rating agency noted that the Wagner Hotel’s delinquency on ground rent and payments in lieu of taxes (both levies collected by the Battery Park City Authority from property owners) contributed to $3 million in arrears owed to the Authority.
In January, more than 20 Urban Commons subsidiaries and affiliates filed for bankruptcy in a series of proceedings related to unpaid taxes and other debts on 18 properties (chiefly hotels) located throughout the U.S.
All of these developments come on the heels of a 2020 legal action by condominium owners at the Ritz-Carlton residences (the apartment tower located above the Wagner Hotel), arguing that Urban Commons was in violation of multiple terms of its ground lease. These alleged violations included the requirement that the facility be branded to a world-class operator of premium hotels and resorts, that it be recognized as such by national ratings agencies, and that it be managed by a company that has a decade or more of experience overseeing at least five comparable hotels. Residents of the Ritz-Carlton condominium argue that the Wagner’s substandard operation detracts from their quality of life and diminishes the value of their homes.
‘We Can’t Tell You That’
Meeting Tonight to Organize In Favor of Affordability and Against Secrecy
The grassroots campaign pushing for greater affordability at the super-tall residential tower planned for the Five World Trade Center site will held an organizing meeting last night.
Man Threatens and Robs Multiple Women in Downtown Subway Stations
A man has been accosting and robbing women in Lower Manhattan subway stations, threatening to kill the victims if they refused to hand over their MetroCards.
In a string of nearly identical incidents, the suspect (believed by police to be the same man in each case) approached a woman walking alone, grabbed her by the arm, and said he would use lethal violence unless she handed over her subway pass. In all three robberies, the perpetrator took only the MetroCard, and robbed the victims of no other possessions. To read more…
Statue of Limitations
Local Leaders Want ‘Fearless Girl’ to Go Through Channels Before Becoming Permanent
An array of Lower Manhattan community leaders are mobilizing to lobby the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to comply with legally required procedures before authorizing the continued presence on Broad Street of the “Fearless Girl” statue, a bronze likeness of a young female striking a jaunty, audacious pose.
A resolution enacted at October 26 monthly meeting of Community Board 1 (CB1) notes that the sculpture, “was originally placed at a nearby public site without authority in 2017.” To read more…
Six Figures for Every 12 Inches
City Announces $110 Million for Resiliency in Seaport
Another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is resiliency protection for Lower Manhattan appeared to fall into place on October 26, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $110 million in funding for protective measures covering a small stretch of the South Street Seaport waterfront. The Mayor’s announcement said, “the proposed project, which will be subject to appropriate review, will rebuild and raise the existing bulkhead and improve drainage in the area from approximately the Brooklyn Bridge to Pier 17.” To read more…
The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. This year’s showcase focuses on Native people boldly asserting themselves through language, healing, building community, and a continued relationship with the land. Activism lies at the heart of all these stories. Check website for individual listings Free
Originally from the Chicago comedy scene, Megan has been called “an oasis of invigorating silliness in feeds dominated by wearying tragedy” by the New York Timesand “a soothing comedy balm for a scathing grease fire of a year” by Harper’s Bazaar.$37.50
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets are open
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Every Wednesday & Saturday, 8am-3pm
Food Scrap Collection: Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall Street
Every Tuesday & Thursday, 8am-5pm
Food Scrap Collection: Tuesdays only, 8am-11am
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted
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‘A Victory for Every Community in Lower Manhattan’
City Council Candidate Christopher Marte Wins Race to Succeed Margaret Chin
Christopher Marte won by a wide margin the race to succeed Margaret Chin and represent Lower Manhattan in the City Council, according to preliminary results posted online by the City’s Board of Elections.
As of a few minutes after midnight, with 98.5 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Marte had garnered 15,055 votes out of 21,083 ballots cast, or approximately 71 percent of the total. He was trailed by Independent candidate Maud Maron, with 3,041 votes (or 14 percent), and Republican contender Jacqueline Toboroff, with 2,945 votes, or 13 percent.
Kavanagh Pushes for Ban on Natural Gas in New Buildings
State Senator Brian Kavanagh led a Monday rally of environmentalists at City Hall Park on Monday to urge passage of the All-Electric Building Act, a proposed law that he is sponsoring in the upper house of the State legislature. This measure would prohibit the issuance of permits for the construction of new gas-powered buildings starting in 2023, along with conversions of existing buildings starting next year, except in cases where builders or owners can demonstrate that “there are truly no feasible alternatives.”
Planning Moves Ahead for Elevating Battery Waterfront
With the ongoing design process for the Battery Wharf resiliency project now 50 percent complete (and construction slated to begin in late 2022), Community Board 1 (CB1) is weighing in with concerns and ideas about how to refine the vision for raising the level of the waterfront esplanade in the Battery to protect the historic park against future sea-level rise and extreme-weather events.
Alliance Aims to Encourage Storefront Startups in Lower Manhattan
The Downtown Alliance is offering a package of free incentives and support services, valued at $10,000, to help new retailers and restaurants seeking to open in Lower Manhattan. The Jump Start program is designed to give small businesses a better chance at success in both the physical and online marketplace, by offering up to 20 eligible applicants a customized strategic launch plan, along with four interactive consultation sessions. Services will include advice on everything from driving foot traffic to creating a successful e-commerce platform.
The aftermath on West Street following the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
On this date In 1997, Ramzi Yousef is found guilty of masterminding the bombing.
photo: Robert Simko
954 – The 13-year-old Lothair III is crowned at the Abbey of Saint-Remi as king of the West Frankish Kingdom.
1793 – Jean Sylvain Bailly, the first Mayor of Paris, is guillotined.
1912 – The frozen bodies of Robert Scott and his men are found on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
1927 – Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, leaving Joseph Stalin in undisputed control of the Soviet Union.
1936 – In California, the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opens to traffic.
1941 – World War II: Temperatures around Moscow drop to -12 °C as the Soviet Union launches ski troops for the first time against the freezing German forces near the city.
1954 – Ellis Island ceased operations.
1979 – Iran hostage crisis: In response to the hostage situation in Tehran, President Jimmy Carter orders a halt to all petroleum imports into the United States from Iran.
1980 – The NASA space probe Voyager I makes its closest approach to Saturn and takes the first images of its rings.
1981 – Space Shuttle program: Mission STS-2, utilizing the Space Shuttle Columbia, marks the first time a manned spacecraft is launched into space twice.
1990 – Tim Berners-Lee publishes a formal proposal for the World Wide Web.
1997 – Ramzi Yousef is found guilty of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
2001 – In New York City, American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300 en route to the Dominican Republic, crashes minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 260 on board and five on the ground.
2011 – A blast in Iran’s Shahid Modarres missile base leads to the death of 17 of the Revolutionary Guards members, including Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, a key figure in Iran’s missile program.
Auguste Rodin, sculptor and illustrator 1840 – 1917
1729 – Louis Antoine de Bougainville, French admiral and explorer (d. 1811)
1795 – Thaddeus William Harris, American entomologist and botanist (d. 1856)
1840 – Auguste Rodin, French sculptor and illustrator, created The Thinker (d. 1917)
1889 – DeWitt Wallace, publisher and philanthropist, co-founded Reader’s Digest (d. 1981)
1923 – Ian Graham, English archaeologist and explorer (d. 2017)
1929 – Grace Kelly, American actress, later Princess Grace of Monaco (d. 1982)
1934 – Charles Manson, American cult leader (d. 2017)
1943 – Wallace Shawn, American actor, comedian and playwright
1944 – Booker T. Jones, American pianist, saxophonist, songwriter, and producer
1945 – Neil Young, Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer
973 – Burchard III, Frankish nobleman (b. c.915)
1094 – Duncan II of Scotland (b. 1060)
1595 – John Hawkins, English admiral and shipbuilder (b. 1532)
1916 – Percival Lowell, American astronomer, mathematician, and author (b. 1855)
1993 – H. R. Haldeman, diplomat, 4th White House Chief of Staff (b. 1926)
2018 – Stan Lee, American comic book writer, editor, and publisher (b. 1922)