Condo of Nightmares
By: Annie Karni
October 25th, 2009
They’re living in a purgatory between a deadbeat developer and cold city bureaucrats.
Christian Viveros-Faune and his wife, Lisa Johnson, sank their life savings into a $405,000 duplex apartment at a new development at 201 Spencer St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 2004.
Five years later, the couple cannot sell, rent or re- finance their home. They risk being evicted, one of 72 families caught in a dream-crushing Catch-22.
“Our apartment has zero value and all of our money is here,” said Johnson, 44, who was laid off from her corporate human-re- sources job in January. “Now we have zero savings in a recession.”
In 2003, the city green-lighted Brach’s construction of several nine-story residential towers. He obtained a variance because he claimed the units would house faculty for a nearby school.
At the same time, Brach filed an offering plan with the state Attorney General’s Office to sell 90 units as open-market condos. In 2004, when the city discovered the oversized tower did not, in fact, house teachers, and had other violations, it refused to grant the owners permanent certificates.
Now, many units are falling into foreclosure and some residents are abandoning their homes.
“I moved out” a few weeks ago, said Ronda Thompson, 37, who owns a $280,000 one-bedroom and was laid off by American Express last year. “If I could have sold the apartment, I would be renting something right now in New York.” Instead, she has moved back in with her parents in California.
In July, the attorney representing the apartment owners, Adam Leitman Bailey, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo won a judgment against Brach for $10.9 million. But Brach claimed he had no money even though he grossed $25 million on the condos.
Brach’s lawyer did not return messages.
“We’re going after every dime,” said Bailey.