Sunday Summary: It’s Complicated

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If NYC had to put a relationship designation on Amazon it would be “It’s complicated.”

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They left us on Valentine’s Day 2019… and yet Jeff Bezos’ company still calls us at various emotional moments. This week, for instance, the company announced it would open a 2,000-person office in the old Lord & Taylor space.

To be honest, we have to scratch our heads at the timing of this when nearly every tech company in the world seems to be deemphasizing the office. Or, at least sending very mixed signals. Facebook has also been blowing hot and cold. First they’re embracing WFH. Then they’re signing 730,000-square-foot leases. Honestly, we don’t know what to make of this any more.

But there are crossed wires and mixed signals everywhere in tech. Airbnb, like the rest of the hospitality world, has had a rough 2020, having to lay off a quarter of its workforce. And yet, despite all the tumult, Airbnb filed a confidential IPO this week. Go figure.

Lawyer Up!

We noticed a lot of lawsuits last week. In Long Island City, Merchants Hospitality advanced a $2.5 million lawsuit against Sonder for backing out of their plan to lease the entire 100-unit Z NYC Hotel.

Douglas Durst, the head of the eponymous Durst Organization, and Jordan Barowitz, a Durst spokesman, are trying to fend off a defamation suit from a lawyer for the estate of Kathie Durst (one of Robert Durst’s alleged victims); a prior suit alleging that Douglas covered up his brother’s crimes was brushed off by Barowitz in the New York Post and Daily News as an attempt “to make a buck.” Which has led to this current legal headache.

And then there was the alarmingly weird case of Mohd R. Amin. This Baghladeshi immigrant left the country and found his two East New York houses were stolen out from under him by alleged fraudsters filing apparently fake deeds with the city.

The biggest legal bombshell of the last week, though, came out of California, where the Judicial Council voted 19-to-1 to allow eviction proceedings to begin in September. We have the feeling (given that apartment rent payments are down nearly 30 percent across the U.S, as per a report from Rentec Direct) that we will see many, many more court cases in the future.

Business Goes On!

Of course, it hasn’t been all legal proceedings. There have been deals. Interesting ones!

Food Hall operator 16” on Center (16OC) signed a lease to take 13,000 square feet at RXR Realty’s Starrett-Lehigh Building. (Although dining was, last week, a painful topic for many in the business.) And Redeemer Presbyterian Church acquired 150 East 91st Street for $30 million in an all-cash deal.

JP Morgan provided Alfred Weissman Real Estate $80 million of refinancing for its 435,000-square-foot warehouse facility at 555 Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers.

We learned that Alex Sapir is attempting to restructure his last remaining $44 million bond on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, in a move that could impact his properties in New York and Miami.

Plus, the City Planning Commission greenlit a controversial plan to rezone Industry City, which is expected to create several hundred thousand square feet of new commercial space. So more business will continue!

That’s very good because we need some positive news. Last week we learned that 7 percent of commercial mortgage-backed securities were in special servicing in the first half of this year. Which is not so good. But, like we said, mixed messages.

See you next week!