Fifty-three Chinese-American investors have put down $8.5 million to buy a corner of the Lower East Side they plan to call home.
Organized under a corporation known as Delancey Bridge Tower, Inc., based in Flushing, the investors have pooled their resources to build themselves a 12-story condominium building on a plot of land that abuts the Williamsburg Bridge, where Delancey and Pitt streets meet.
The project means the imminent closure of T & J Auto Repairs, a neighborhood fixture which has occupied a garage at 210 Delancey St. since 1954 and whose current proprietor, Tony Marano, gradually acquired the land surrounding his family’s business during the ’80s and ’90s. While the family stands to profit handsomely on the sale, it’s still been an emotional end of an era, said Anthony Marano, Tony’s son, a real estate developer.
“I’m really heartbroken about it, but I don’t know who feels worse, me or my dad,” said the younger Marano, who started working in his father’s shop as a boy of six. “In the end, it was a smart business decision.”
Because the garage is grandfathered under current zoning laws that allow residential uses only, the Maranos were not permitted to expand the auto shop, Marano said. As a result, the adjacent lots at 206 and 208 Delancey St. and 49 and 51 Pitt St. remained undeveloped except for use as parking. In recent years, the grounds around 210 Delancey have also sprouted an eclectic, lush garden featuring a few large trees, bright flowers and the partially sunken hull of a 1967 Firebird that served as a compost bin.
“The real estate’s just too valuable, and we were not in a position right now to fully develop the property ourselves,” said Marano, whose company Ozymandius Realty has been involved in several high-profile local projects, including the stalled plan to redevelop the Young Israel Synagogue on East Broadway we covered extensively last summer. A continuing scarcity of commercial financing in today’s real estate market made a speculative condo project unfeasible, Marano said, which is why the family welcomed the offer from the condo investors. The buyers came to the table with cash in hand, avoiding the uncertainty of bank loans that make conventional development projects so dicey in the current market.
Public land records show that the Marano family bought out their former landlord and took over ownership of 210 Delancey in 1979. They subsequently purchased four adjacent properties from the city government at public auction in three separate transactions between 1983 and 1999, at very modest prices. The family paid $81,000 for 49 Pitt St., $21,500 for 51 Pitt St., and $152,000 for 206 and 208 Delancey, combined—a total of $254,500, according to public records.
On July 25, the new owners acquired all five lots for a total of $8.48 million, a pool of money collected from 53 investors contributing $160,000 each, according to records on file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The new owners plan to begin demolition this fall and complete the project in two to three years, said Gia Demirhan, the office manager for Delancey Bridge Tower LLC. According to the SEC paperwork, the president and CEO is Yanpo Zhu, who also goes by Andy Zhu. Zhu is a resident of Henry Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown; other principals are James Lu, of Brooklyn, and Aixia Zhan, of Roslyn, NY. Demirhan described the future homeowners as Chinese-Americans from around the five boroughs, Long Island and Connecticut. The LLC’s parent organization, Hua Yang Development Group, also of Flushing, has developed other multi-family projects in Queens, but this is the group’s first Manhattan project, she said.
Zhu did not return phone calls seeking details of the new building, but Marano called it “a good-looking project” built around a large central courtyard and including a Chinese-language school on the ground floor. The architect is Michael Kang.
The condo owners’ future neighbors include a real cross-section of the Lower East Side. The Samuel Gompers Houses public housing complex occupies a 4-acre swath directly across Pitt Street, from Delancey to Rivington. A few doors north, a local resident plans Manhattan’s first fully sustainable single-family home at 61 Pitt St. At 85 Pitt St., a drug-related shooting claimed the life of a 23-year-old Brooklyn man in June.
Next door, directly to the west at 78 Ridge St. on the corner of Delancey, is the River Ridge condo building, which replaced a former poultry slaughterhouse in 2007, taking a variety of grief about its bridge-side location and slow sales. To the north, at 53 Pitt St., is a seven-story residential building that’s home to ground-level stores and upstairs apartments. Marano said he has that building under contract and plans to renovate it. It will not officially be part of the new condo project, but the deal between the Marano family and the Delancey Bridge Tower group includes an agreement that 53 Pitt St. will have access to the courtyard next door, Marano said.