Embattled Billionaire Skyscraper Developer Sued for Shoddy Construction

In New York real estate, money can usually buy you a modicum of happiness. But the residents of one of the city’s priciest—and tallest—residential towers are suing its developers for structural flaws they say have made their lives a living nightmare.

In a complaint filed Thursday, the condo board at 432 Park Avenue alleges the 96-floor skyscraper overlooking Central Park is “riddled” with more than 1,500 construction and design defects in the common areas alone, many of which are described as “life safety issues.”

According to the board, shoddy workmanship and poor planning has led to flooding, stuck elevators, electrical explosions, and “horrible and obtrusive noise and vibration” caused by building sway.

Even throwing garbage down the trash chute “sounds like a bomb.”

“Far from the ultra luxury spaces that they were promised…unit owners were sold a building plagued by breakdowns and failures that have endangered and inconvenienced residents, guests, and workers, and repeatedly been the subject of highly critical accounts in the press and social media,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is reportedly seeking $125 million plus punitive damages, listing CIM Group and Macklowe Properties as defendants, along with the company they formed to build the tower, identified as the Sponsor in filings. Macklowe Properties is led by Harry Macklowe, who’s both a developer and gossip-column regular.

Harry Macklowe

Sean Zanni

When the 1,396-foot-tall skyscraper was completed in 2015, it was the envy of Billionaires Row and the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. Some critics compared Rafael Viñoly’s 125-unit tower to a middle finger jutting above the Midtown skyline, but it still had a projected sellout value of $3.1 billion.

While many occupants purchased properties anonymously through shell companies, known buyers included former flames Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, who purchased a 4,000-square-foot apartment at 432 Park in 2018 for $15.3 million. 

Of course, they only kept their three-bedroom condo for about a year.

Saudi retail billionaire Fawaz Alhokair purchased the 96th-floor penthouse in 2016 for $88 million, but he is also selling: Alhokair listed the six-bedroom aerie this summer for $169 million, including artwork and furnishings.  Another home is also currently on the market for $135 million, as Architectural Digest reported earlier this month.

But the cracks in the veneer really emerged in February, when The New York Times reported on many of the residents’ grievances.

Sarina Abramovich told the paper she and her husband bought a high-floor unit at 432 Park for nearly $17 million in 2016.

On their move-in date, Abramovich claimed, both their unit and the building were still under construction. She rode up to their apartment in a freight elevator “surrounded by steel plates and plywood, with a hard-hat operator.”

Three years ago, a water leak several floors above seeped into the Abramoviches’ home, causing an estimated $500,000 in damages.

There’s been severe flooding and water damage on multiple levels, the lawsuit claims, due to poor oversight and “significant corners cut” during construction.

“Everything here was camouflage,” Abramovich told the Times in February. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have never bought.”

The suit accuses CIM and Macklowe of “one of the worst examples of Sponsor malfeasance in the development of a luxury condominium in the history of New York City.”

The buildings’ elevators, programmed to slow down during high winds, have repeatedly shut down and trapped residents for hours “on multiple occasions.”

Every 12th floor is an unenclosed space, intended to allow air currents to pass through, decreasing wind resistance and cutting down on stress to the structure. But, according to the lawsuit, even CIM Group chair Richard Ressler, a fellow resident, admitted in “an unguarded moment” that the sound and vibration issues were “intolerable” and made it hard to sleep during bad weather.

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