314 St Johns Place — Brooklynian

314 St Johns Place

edited 7:11AM in Prospect Heights

Been walking by this abandoned site for awhile now. Anyone know the latest here? I know some condos a la Mssr Meier we're in planned but those plans have seeming been derailed. Quick scan of the boards shows there was some squatter issues recently, as well.

Just curious.

Comments

  • edited October 2014

    Readers: this is the site at the corner of St. Johns and Underhill.

    Yes, in the peak of the 2007 real estate boom, this former 2 story laundry mat was to become a tall, thin building with small "whole floor" apartments. By keeping the facade, they were able to convince DOB it was an "alteration" as opposed to new construction.

    The developers (I believe "correctly") ascertained that the wealthy future tenants would want elevators. The problem was that even though it was only going to being "altered" (by adding six stories to a two story building ?!) the city fire code still required an interior stairwell.

    The building's lot size is small. So, once you put in an elevator and interior stairwell, very small apartments would be left.

    ....so construction didn't happen.

    And I every time I walk by, I dream of making it a corner bar and restaurant, and living upstairs.

    I suspect the owners waaaay over paid for the site, and it don't have a way to sell it for market value to someone who actually would put it to use.

  • Agree, think it has a lot of potential as a dining space.

  • whynot_31 said:

    I suspect the owners waaaay over paid for the site, and it don't have a way to sell it for market value to someone who actually would put it to use.

    The guy who owns the site also owns 340 Sterling (SW corner of Sterling/Underhill). It looks like he's owned the laundrymat site since 1983*, so I don't think it's a overpayment issue. His building/real estate management is puzzling at best.

    *Looks like property was originally purchased as part of tax foreclosure sale in '83, and then sold to a development corp still managed by the '83 owner (with the addition of a developer) for $323k in 2009.

  • edited December 2014

    Arches-

    Your findings are bad news: It is my understanding that vacant, unimproved properties in NYC are subject to very low property taxes. So, given that this guy owns that eyesore outright, we may have to look at it until the end of time.

    Is the owner (ahem, "Developer") the guy who was living in the former laundry mat from approx 2003 - 2007 with his large dogs?

    So let me get this straight:

    a. Pre 1983 guy owns property, but does not pay taxes on it.

    b. In 1983, property is seized by city, then sold to same guy and a developer.

    c. Property falls into further disrepair. Finally becoming so decrepit that people will no longer to their laundry there, and instead walk down block.

    d. Homeless people (and possibly owner) move into residence.

    e. Sometime around 2004. As per first hand conversation between myself and Skibo: Skibo, the local book seller, lived there.

    f. Around 2007. Hair brained scheme is created to create 8 story masterpiece that would result in 8 tiny apartments, costing more per square foot than most units in the Meier building.

    f. About 2008. Scheme fails, despite being concocted during the biggest boom in 80 years. Skibo disappears (he was a good guy!).

    g. Present time. Same guy still owns building.

  • No, if I understand what Arches says its actually: (Differences are bolded)

    a. Pre 1983 guy owns property, but does not pay taxes on it.

    b. In 1983, property is seized by city, then sold to another guy.

    c. Property falls into further disrepair. Finally becoming so decrepit that people will no longer to their laundry there, and instead walk down block.

    d. Homeless people (and possibly owner) move into residence. Housing is provided to Skibo, the local book seller.

    e. Hair brained scheme is created to create 8 story masterpiece that would result in tiny apartments, costing most per square foot than Meier building.

    f. In 2009 to effect this scheme, building is re-sold to corporation consisting of same guy who purchased in 1983 and a developer.

    g. Scheme fails, despite being concocted during the biggest boom in 80 years. Skibo disappears.

    h. Same guy still owns building along with developer partner.

  • Ok, I see my error.

    But this still means we have had the same genius at the helm since 1983. Is the only difference now, that there is a developer who can't sell their portion without getting the consent of the aforementioned genius?

  • Yes, and poor Skibo is probably completely out of the book-selling business what with the downfall of the book superstore (Borders) and the increasing popularity of e-books pushed by Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

  • I promise, I will not open a book store at that site if I get a hold of it.

  • I took a closer look at the ACRIS records...there was actually one important transaction I missed.

    1983 - Initial purchase in tax lien sale by AJ

    2004 - AJ sells (transfers?) property to his wife

    2007 - Wife sells (transfers?) property to new corporate entity - AJGroup, Inc.

    2007 - AJGroup, Inc takes out 3 mortgages totaling $3.2M (presumably construction loans)

    2009 - AJGroup, Inc sells property to Amex Development, LLCfor $323k and satisfies outstanding mortgages.

    I'm not sure of the relation between the previous owner and Amex Development, LLC.

  • Let's assume Amex has no relation to AJ.

    Given the crash, I assume Amex was able to settle the debt for far less than AJ owed.

    But we are still talking about something like $2M, right?

  • So it looks like we'll have to amend my list to add an additional sale to a possibly unrelated 3rd party. Anybody else think mortgage fraud may have occurred? How do you satisfy $3.2m in outstanding mortgages with no improvements to the building? Only way I can see it is to park the money in escrow and then pay it all back at closing. However if that's the case then AJGroup walked with $323K plus 2 years interest on $3.2m. Not a bad payday at all...

  • Homeowner-

    You are assuming that the banks who lent AJ the money, still thought the investment was worth something.

    I suspect this was not true, and that AJ was unable to make the payments on a $3.2M loan and/or the bank changed their mind about giving it to him in light of the crash.

    As a result, I am assuming that the banks were willing to settle the debt for far less than they were owed, and that Amex was willing to pay :

    -AJ $323k to go away

    -the banks some amount far less than $3.2M

  • But if that's the case, wouldn't there be an intervening sale in between the AJ/Amex transaction? The bank would still want to hold title, would they not? It appears that AJ still owned the building, so that's where I was starting from...

  • I have no idea. I am speculating that the regional manager of the bank wanted to tell the even more important bank person that "yes, we made a bad loan and lost a lot of money, but we fired that loan officer, and have nothing to do with that property anymore."

  • I'd imagine construction loans come with some sort of completion "checklist" - the banks may not hand over $3.2 million the day you get the loan. So maybe they got a couple hundred thousand to start demo, put up a construction fence and to weld some crappy angle iron into the old window frames (as if that was really going to hold up a 6 story building??)...and then everything tanked. No idea though.

    I can't find any info on Amex Development, LLC.

  • Oh, and in case you are wondering what bank would make a loan on this property? Imperial Capital Bank would. Or in proper tense, would have.

    http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/imperialcapital.html

    Maybe 314 St Johns was the nail in the coffin!

  • Gotcha. Either way, AJ walks with $3.2 million in cash not put into the building, 2 years interest on $3.2m, or $323k plus some nominal amount from the bank loans. The bank gets completely repaid or repaid with a significant haircut (All you commercial RE folks, is 2/3rds reasonable for 2009?). The developer gets what could potentially be a good investment if 1PP takes off. And Skibo gets screwed by the man.

  • I'm with Arches: AJ never got the full $3.2M.

    ...I suspect the FDIC rescued the Imperial' banks depositors, ended up with the title and them promptly sold it for cheap to Amex.

    Who knows how little Amex really got it for.

    (Skibo didn't need a lot, so think he will be ok)

  • I don't necessarily disagree with you, just looking at all the possibilities. Bottom line is AJ still probably made out okay on the entire deal as did Amex.

  • I suspect the taxpayers (i.e. the FDIC, did the worst in the deal)

  • The actual deed for the transfer of property from AJGroup to Amex shows cash proceeds of $10 (yes, just ten dollars). The $323k figure appears to be derived from the NYC Real Property transfer form. That figure can include things like assumed debts...so maybe Amex got it for $10 and responsibility for all the unpaid bills to the architect (pure speculation here). I don't think AJ pocketed a lot on this deal (unless Amex is somehow a related party and he still retains an interest). Then again he didn't pay much for the property in the first place.

  • Can anyone confirm whether AJ is the guy with the unruly dogs that lived in the first floor?

    $10? ....damn, if that's the case, that barely paid round trip metro care fare for he and his wife to attend the closing.

  • Yes, AJ = dog owner in question.

    $10 does seem awfully suspicious for an arms length transaction. ACRIS only gives part of the story, of course. Maybe AMEX didn't assume AJ's existing debts...for example, maybe they paid $10 cash and $331,990 worth of dog food!

  • arches said:

    Oh, and in case you are wondering what bank would make a loan on this property? Imperial Capital Bank would. Or in proper tense, would have.

    http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/imperialcapital.html

    Maybe 314 St Johns was the nail in the coffin!

    :lol:

    See tangled webs like this are why I don't bother getting into fiction. Stories are better when they don't end neatly

  • Is there any law that can goad property owners into action? So sick of the inactivity here. And wile I agree, this place would make nice dining establishment, I also wouldn't mind seeing it torn down completely and turned into a community garden.

  • If the owners fall behind on their taxes, the city can eventually seize it and sell it at auction.

    Likewise, the city issues fines:

    -not keeping the site secure

    -not cleaning the site walk.

    -rats

    -not shoveling snow.

    If they fail to pay those fines, they city can eventually get control of it.

    311 is your friend. (hint)

  • I post tonight to state I that I saw AJ and his 3 pit bull-type dogs, as he unlocked the plywood fence to gain entry to his second floor home.

    I said "Hi AJ".

    He replied: "How you know my name?"

    I replied: "We met once."

    He replied: "Oh, alright"

    I wanted to congratulate him and his dogs on making it thru another winter in the building's upstairs, despite the lack of heat, water and electricity, but I did not have the nerve.

    AJ seems get his hygiene needs met (at least in part...) by the bathrooms in Mount Prospect Park.

  • What NYC needs is a good ol' fashioned Land Value Tax. I don't think that'd make many of NYC's wealthy landholders and real estate speculators very happy, though.

  • Last time I checked his work order permits were past date. But i can't be bothered to complain...

  • By the way, Skibo loved to write his name in wet sidewalk concrete, and evidence of his presence can still be seen in the blocks that surround the area.

  • This morning I saw the ASPCA police pull up and check out this space - maybe someone called them about the dogs? At this point I've gotten used to the site and actually worry that new construction will be worse for the neighbors (in the short-term of course). Anyone know of any new developments?

  • Ms. Whynot reports the following:

    "AJ has 5 dogs. He walks 3 of them together, then the other 2. I saw him today (June 3, 2013), walking the 3 dogs around 5:30PM. They look pretty healthy."

  • Wow, this is incredibly researched. Well done! I've always wondered what is going on there.

    Like WhyNot, my wife and I fantasized about turning the ground floor into a bar called "Super Wash" or whatever those old painted laundry signs above the windows used to say. Those were awesome.

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