Friday, March 10, 2023

Judge Gives Flatiron Owners the 23 Skidoo

Wow, what do we make of this? The New York Post reports that as a result of an ongoing disagreement among the current owners of the Flatiron Building, the iconic property will soon be available to the highest bidder. 

The 121-year-old Manhattan office building -- which was originally known as the Fuller Building yet ironically currently sits empty-- will hit the auction block in what is known as a partition sale on March 22 -- stemming from a ruling in the contentious legal fight between its multiple landlords.

Keep reading BELOW.

In January, a New York state judge issued an order allowing the auction to move forward following a 2021 suit by Sorgente Group, Jeffrey Gural’s GFP Real Estate and ABS Real Estate Partners, who together own 75% of the building, the Real Deal first reported. 

The co-owners sued after reaching a stalemate with Nathan Silverstein, who owns 25% of the steel-framed 175 Fifth Ave. building, which was completed in 1902 and is the namesake for the surrounding neighborhood. 

Due to the building’s shared ownership, which gives every owner veto power on every major building decision, the parties were not only unable to agree but also unable to move forward -- trapped in a very expensive standoff over the future of an extremely pricey piece of real estate. 

The situation became untenable after MacMillan Publishers -- which at the time occupied all 21 floors of the triangular structure -- announced in 2017 that it would be moving out within two years.

Silverstein subsequently proposed a slew of what Gural deems “preposterous” ideas, including that no upgrading be done in the time period between MacMillan leaving and a new tenant moving in -- despite that fact that upgrades were legally required to re-rent the structure and for fire safety, Gural said, according to an affidavit.

Despite the building being landmarked, Silverstein also had the idea to divide the property into separate ones -- an impossibility due to its historic status, wrote Gural, the Real Deal reported.

“It boggles the mind to suggest that we could nevertheless agree on a plan to physically divide this building into five smaller, independent properties, none of which would be marketable -- and then agree on a plan as to how that work would be financed,” Gural wrote in the affidavit. “We have tried for years to work out these differences with Mr. Silverstein, but the defendant has delayed, resisted and ultimately refused to agree with plaintiffs’ proposed business plan.”

Silverstein, meanwhile, claims Newmark failed to market the property when MacMillan announced it was leaving, and then Gural tried to rent the space for an “exceptionally low cost per square foot” and an extremely long contract to Knotel, which Newmark’s Barry Gossin had a significant stake in. 

“The proposed rental agreement would have locked the property into an unprofitable lease for a long period of time,” Silverstein wrote in an affidavit. 

The Sorgente-GFP-ABS group will likely bid at the auction later this month, Gural said in a previous filing, according to the Real Deal. 

The Flatiron is also said to be the inspiration for a once-popular slang phrase. According to Wikipedia, the most widely known story of the origin of the expression "23 skidoo" concerns the area around the famed building just south of Madison Square. The building is located on 23rd Street at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, the latter two of which intersect at an acute angle. Because of the shape of the building, winds swirl around it. During the early 1900s, groups of men reportedly gathered to watch women walking by have their skirts blown up, revealing legs, which were seldom seen publicly at that time. Local constables, when sometimes telling such groups of men to leave the area, were said to be "giving them the 23 Skidoo." 

An early nickelodeon film called "What Happened on Twenty-Third Street," which dates from 1901, shows a woman's skirt being lifted by the updraft from a ventilation grate, exposing her knees. Some consider the Flatiron Building origin claim dubious because the slang expressions "23" (a code word for asking someone to leave) and "skidoo" (probably deriving from skedaddle, meaning "to leave," with an imperative sense) were already in use before 1902, the year the Flatiron Building was built.

I lived near the Flatiron for ages and have always adored it. Still, it's a bit of a sore subject for me as I gave my niece a Lego set of the famed building for Christmas one year and never heard a word about it again. Meanwhile, she built 30 Harry Potter-themed sets, which she proudly has on display throughout the family house!

1 comment:

Jaradon said...

I imagine this is protected as historical landmark