Lawsuit: Thin Skyscraper Is Too Thin

Multibillionaires mad about getting trapped in a glass box in the sky

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 04:  The private residence 432 Park Avenue towers above office buildings ...
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The condo board members at 432 Park Avenue — the social x-ray of a building on Manhattan’s “Billionaire’s Row” and one of the most expensive residential addresses in the world — have sued its developers for $125 million in damages, alleging some 1,500 design defects that include electrical “explosions,” rampant flooding, and an “intolerable” noise produced by the gargantuan building literally swaying in the wind.

The case, filed in New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, accuses its developers of enabling “one of the worst examples of sponsor malfeasance in the development of a luxury condominium in the history of New York City.” The 1,400-foot Juul was erected in 2015, and became a kind of shorthand for Manhattan real estate excess. The luxury condo, then projected to sell all of its units out for a total of $3.1 billion, pitched itself as the apex of ugly style to celebrities, corporate executives, and offshore oligarchs. This largely bore out: Saudi retailer Fawaz Alhokair bought the 96th floor penthouse for $88 million in 2016. Other buyers included an heir to the Jose Cuervo fortune, a couple of oil and gas executives, and J-Lo and A-Rod, before their breakup and the rise of Bennifer II.

But as it turns out, manifesting Roald Dahl’s “Great Glass Elevator” in real life poses some challenges for physics. The building’s extreme height and modelesque slenderness makes it sashay in the breeze, which “on several occasions” messed up its actual elevators, the complaint claims, leaving residents trapped “for hours.” The constant motion also produced severe “sound and vibration issues,” which even Richard Resseler, founder of one of its developers, the CIM Group, called “intolerable.”

The plumbing is also allegedly bad — several floods and leaks have soaked 35 of the apartments and common areas, wreaking “millions in damages,” and again, damaging some elevators. Throwing out the trash in the markedly tall garbage chute, one resident claimed, “sounds like a bomb.” And in June, the residents experienced their second “electrical explosion” in three years.

Louisa Whitmore, a Canadian TikToker who earned a following for starting a hate page specifically dedicated to the building, told Gawker even she had been surprised by the details of the lawsuit. “I knew there was flooding, but I didn’t know there were explosions happening,” she said. “The people in the units are all so rich, it’s hard to feel bad for multibillionaires. But if I lived in a building that flooded over three times and exploded, I would sue too.”

(Whitmore noted that the architect, Rafael Viñoly, had a complicated track record: “He’s built multiple buildings that have burned things across the street. That’s a mistake you can’t make twice. ” She was referring to the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas and the Walkie Talkie building in London, two Viñoly-designed structures that have set things on fire, or shot rays of heat at nearby objects. Both of these incidents spawned nicknames: “Walkie Scorchie” for the London building after it “melted parts of cars parked in a street below and started a small fire outside a shop;” and “the Death Ray hotel” for the Vegas resort , whose glass walls acted as “a giant magnifying glass sending a hot ray onto the pool area.” But the engineering problems of 432 Park Ave., Whitmore noted, had nothing to do with Viñoly).

A spokesman for 432 Park had a different view of things: “432 Park delivers the finest level of service, world-class amenities and state-of-the-art technology and is an iconic addition to the New York skyline,” he told Gawker in an email. “It is Manhattan’s premier residence, which has performed remarkably well.”

He argued the sponsor had met all their contractual commitments, but that the homeowner’s association had delayed repairs. “Certain vocal residents misunderstand Sponsor’s obligations,” he wrote. “This includes demanding modifications to the building and its operations that, while preferred by the HOA, are clearly not the responsibility of Sponsor.”

The condo board’s lawyer, Herrick Feinstein partner Jonathan Adelsberg, did not immediately respond to Gawker’s request for comment. Neither did Viñoly’s architectural firm, nor one of the developers, Macklowe Properties. The other developer, CIM Group, declined. The press contact listed on the building’s website did get back to us, but only to say:

Gawker! I used to write some things there. Fun times. Blogs! We're no longer involved in 432 Park Avenue.