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June 2011

June 2011 » Market Analysis » NY New Developments

June 2011 New York New Developments

New Developments

Companies such as Boston Properties and Vornado Realty Trust are in negotiations with potential tenants and may even proceed with construction without securing leases. Boston Properties may be the first to break ground by the end of 2011. The company is finalizing negotiations to anchor a 1 million-square-foot tower at Eighth Avenue and 55th Street

Related Companies CEO Stephen Ross said he was confident about attracting tenants for the first phase of the development, which will include four million square feet of office space. "I think we're going to surprise people," he said. "We're talking to nine tenants at two million square feet each." As reported last month, Related is pitching Time Warner on a lease, hoping to draw them away from their Columbus Circle headquarters less than 10 years after the company first moved in.

Real estate in the New York metro area will likely reap much of the benefits of $2 billion in federal funding that Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned down when he canceled the state's planned high-speed rail project between Tampa and Orlando earlier this year. The money has been reallocated to rail projects in 15 states, with the largest portion being funneled into the heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor region, including Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road lines. Close to $800 million will go toward making trains faster, improving electrical lines and improving reliability in the region, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today.

Conde Nast finalized its lease of one million square feet of office space at 1 World Trade Center, guaranteeing the 1,776-foot tall tower an anchor tenant. Conde Nast's annual rent for the 20th through 41st floors in the building will start in 2014 at a little more than $60 per square foot, about equal to what it currently pays at 4 Times Square. Over the course of the 25-year lease the publisher will pay the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owns the site, $2 billion. But the Port Authority offered several incentives -- including agreeing to pay the rent between 2014 and 2019 on Conde Nast's current lease, offering tax exemptions on interior furnishings, and promising $46 million in rent rebates over 17 years -- to land the media giant.

New York City Economic Development Corp. submitted a Request for Proposals for the first phase of development of Willets Point today, and wants developers' submissions, due Aug. 12, to include a concept plan for the entire 62-acre area. In Phase 1, the city wants to turn the 12.7-acre parcel located next to Citi Field, into a mixed-use, green neighborhood that will bring some 4,600 construction jobs and 1,800 permanent jobs to the area. Phase 1 is slated to include 680,000 square feet of retail space, 400 housing units, 2 acres of open space and parking.

The long-decrepit Windermere in Hell's Kitchen will finally undergo a makeover . Mark Tress, who purchased the building in 2009, plans to convert the vacant apartment complex at 400-406 West 57th Street, near the corner of Ninth Avenue, into a boutique hotel. But because of its location in the Special Clinton District, zoning laws require that any rehabilitation include affordable housing units.

More than 120 legal aid foreclosure prevention agencies are facing foreclosure in New York State, Which could leave homeowners to face proceedings alone. These programs, financed since 2009 by federal stimulus spending, have helped around 3,000 New York homeowners in the past three years, but the money will run out by the end of 2011.

The near completion of the second section of Chelsea's High Line park has brought a wave of new residential developments, and new developers, to the West 20s. One of the developers making its first foray into Manhattan construction is actually a familiar name: Equity Residential, the company chaired by real estate mogul Sam Zell. Though Zell first entered New York City in 2004, and the New York-Metro area now accounts for 13 percent of his company's income, a 111-unit rental is the first ground-up project his firm has undertaken.

A. Eugene Kohn, founder and chairman of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the New York-based architecture firm behind the Hudson Yards master plan, expects the West Side mega-project to be completed in full by 2025.

SL Green has taken back control of a 207,000-square-foot office building at 110 East 42nd Street between Lexington and Park avenues that it sold to Gotham Realty Holdings for $111.5 million in 2007, according to Crain's. It acquired a minority stake in the property for an undisclosed figure as part of a debt restructuring process, a spokesperson for SL Green said. It's possible that the building could expand to connect with adjacent 125 Park Avenue, an SL Green property since 2010

The mezzanine lender that took over the Cooper Square Hotel in a debt restructuring deal late last year is now ready to unload the property. The hotel ran into financial trouble soon after, and last year, as restructuring talks were ongoing, the owners of the Soho Grand and Tribeca Grand hotels had come close to purchasing the 145-room property but pulled out of the deal at the eleventh hour. Instead, Westport took control in a transaction valued at $70.9 million

The Museum of Modern Art is buying the home of its next-door neighbor, the cash-strapped American Folk Art Museum at 45 West 53rd Street. The folk art museum's building, which opened in 2001, sits between the current MoMA space and a vacant lot that has long been slated for additional museum development. MoMA sold that vacant lot to Hines in 2007 with the understanding that the developer would ultimately build additional gallery space there. Owning the building in between would allow MoMA to connect the galleries, though it's unclear whether the existing structure would be torn down.

A portfolio of 195 properties is falling out of Gramercy Capital's grasp after the real estate investment trust failed to pay off $790 million in loans, the company announced today. Llenders SL Green, Goldman Sachs Mortgage, Citicorp North America and KBS Debt Holdings "may immediately seek to exercise available remedies, which will likely include attempting to foreclose on all or substantially all the collateral," Gramercy said in a statement. The move comes as analysts say lenders are increasingly switching gears from the so-called extend and pretend strategy to taking back control and unloading their distressed assets.

Barclays Capital Real Estate is being sued for breach of contract relating to a deal involving the purchase rights to a 275,000-square foot property at 475 Fifth Avenue. L&L Holding, which has managed the 23-story building on behalf of Barclays for close to two years, says it had the first right of offer on the property in the event that Barclay's should ever choose to sell. It is seeking damages after Barclays denied this right by offering the building at a "commercially unreasonable price that is substantially above fair market value," according to a summons filed in New York State Supreme Court last month.

The Bloomberg administration granted permission yesterday for the construction of two highway off-ramps for the Van Wyck Expressway that city officials had slated as essential for the redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens. Several Willets Point property owners had been attempting to stall the redevelopment project, claiming that the city had pledged not to condemn state land until the ramps had been okayed. A New York City Economic Development Corp. spokesperson said that the procedural hurdle had now been overcome, and they could move on to the required public review process.

Harry Macklowe has struck a deal to buy 737 Park Avenue for between $250 million and $255 million, and plans to convert the 108 rental units into condominiums. It's the second building in the area that Macklowe has purchased in the hopes of doing a condo conversion, as last month Macklowe purchased a property at 150 East 72nd Street near Lexington Avenue for $70 million.

Clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger is to buy the Clock Tower building at 5 Madison Avenue for $170 million, though current owners Africa Israel USA, the stateside branch of Africa Israel Investments, an international holdings and investments group, did not disclose the buyer in securities documents filed Thursday in Israel.

Robert Gilardian won a 16-story Upper West Side apartment building tied up in an epic decade-long dispute, with a $20.1 million bid made in a bankruptcy auction in Los Angeles yesterday afternoon. Gilardian offered the highest price for 114 West 86th Street, beating out three other approved bidders who participated in the live auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles. The property sold for a gross rent multiple of about 20, and a price per square foot of about $400.

New York City Economic Development Corp. has selected Triangle Equities to purchase and develop two sites in the South Bronx, the agency announced today. The sites, a 53,800-square-foot area at 430 Westchester Avenue, and another 58,000-square-feet parcel of land between East 149th Street, Brook Avenue and Westchester Avenue, both in the Melrose area, will be developed to include a supermarket, school, office space, restaurant and other community facilities. It will also include a new 8,000-square-foot plaza at Bergen Avenue and 149th Street. The projects will cost around $35 million, EDC said, and will create around 201 permanent jobs along with 131 relating to the construction. Seth Pinksy, EDC's president, also predicted millions of dollars in private investment .

New York City and London-based real estate company Epic is acquiring 15 Little West 12th Street, a five-story Meatpacking District office building, from Taconic and Square Mile Capital partners for $70 million, Epic co-founder Steven Elghanayan. The 70,000-square-foot building was originally imagined by late party planner and wannabe developer Robert Isabell.

Great Neck-based landlord Bahram Hakakian, who was on a "slumlord" watch list, sold a dozen troubled multi-family properties to Long Island City-based Alma Realty for $22.5 million. At the same time, Hakakian refinanced five other Manhattan apartment buildings in recent weeks. There were 3,020 housing code violations on the 334 units in the formerly complete package of 17 buildings, or about nine violations per unit, according to an analysis of city records.]

Following the rezoning of the southern section of Bedford Stuyvesant in 2007, the Department of City Planning intends to rezone 140 blocks of the northern part of the neighborhood. The plans were revealed at a local community board meeting. The boundaries of the rezoning will be from Quincy to Flushing, and Classon Avenue to Broadway. Developments will be limited to seven stories in some areas with avenues and wide streets, and to 10 on Myrtle Avenue. The plan includes incentives for affordable housing. Gaps in commercial overlays will also be filled.

The construction of World Trade Center Towers 2 and 3 and the Deutsche Bank building, is one of the few remaining ambiguities from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While towers 1 and 4 reach 64-stories and 23-stories, respectively, and continue to rise at about a floor per week in advance of their 2013 openings, the other two planned buildings are little more than pits at Ground Zero. Much of the problems come from financing. Silverstein Properties, which is leading the development of the site, and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owns the site, have repeatedly pushed back issuing bonds to finance the project as the debt becomes increasingly pricey.

Savanna Investment Fund has purchased the senior mortgage loan on Kent Swig's troubled 80 Broad Street office tower at a discount and is likely to begin foreclosing on the property within the week. Savanna received a 12 percent discount off of the $75 million face value of the loan, which has been in special servicing with J.E. Robert Companies since last winter. Swig led a partnership that purchased the 410,000-square-foot building for $70 million in 2004, but by 2010, the property was appraised for just $67 million and entered into "covenant default" even though Swig was still making mortgage payments at the time.

Harry Macklowe and CIM Group, the developers of 440 Park Avenue near East 56th Street, where the Drake Hotel once stood, have hired architect Rafael Vinoly to design a 70-story tower at the site. Still in its planning stages and not yet filed to the city's Department of Buildings, the tower figures to be mostly residential with a small hotel and retail space. Macklowe's ability to move forward with the project after his portfolio was destroyed by not just the most recent market downturn but also another in the early-1990s, shows the clout big-name developers wield with investors.

The owners of the trendy, 128-room Bryant Park Hotel are struggling to keep up with payments on their $89 million mortgage. The loan is now current, but industry experts say the 40 West 40th Street hotel, converted from an office building in 2001, hasn't been as successful as its creators originally anticipated.

Lawyers for developer Trevor Davis today urged a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to allow the sale of six condominium units at his troubled project at 1055 Park Avenue, claiming he has signed contracts for five units and expected to have the sixth and final contract signed next week. Davis has an agreement with Miami-based real estate firm, New Valley, the 50 percent owner of the property's broker, Prudential Douglas Elliman, to refinance the condo building. Davis filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December after Zimco Holdings, which acquired a $6 million loan on the property, planned to hold a foreclosure auction.

Manhattan developers are banking on a rise in demand for modern office space. More than 25 million square feet of projects are currently under construction or slated to begin in the next nine years, according to Bloomberg News, marking the city's biggest decade for office development since the 1980s.
Only 7.4 million square feet of office space was developed in the 1990s and around 18.5 million in the 2000s.

The city has reached an agreement with the United States Postal Service to buy the site of the Peck Slip Post Office and turn it into an elementary school.

Foreclosure is nearing on Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs' 610 Lexington Avenue development site, where they and their partners had planned to build a Shangri-La hotel tower. The group has failed in their an attempt to re-argue a case they had lost, which clears the way for lenders ING Real Estate Finance and Swedbank AB to foreclose. In that case, they had argued that their obligation to repay their $130 million-plus loan should be suspended until market conditions improve, and alleged a conflict of interest between lender ING and ING Clarion, which was advising one of their development partners.

Although less than a month late and not yet classified as delinquent, the Chetrit Group's $79.6 million loan on 123 William Street, between Fulton and John streets, is nearing default and has been transferred to special servicing. Global ratings agency Fitch Ratings said that more than 50 percent of the leases at the property are close to expiring. A New York state agency occupying 90,000 square feet at the property, let its lease expire in 2008. In March, the Superintendent of Insurance, which rented 170,000 square feet of the building's total 500,000, followed. Another lease, held by Health First is up in October.

Brack Capital Real Estate, has just acquired the development site for its latest Manhattan project: a 290-room Hotel Indigo at 180 Orchard Street. The Lower East Side project, a joint venture with InterContinental Hotels Group, will also include retail and parking when it opens in 2013. BCRE and IHG paid $46 million for the site in an all-equity transaction, the partners announced today. Among the property's planned features: a restaurant, bar, fitness center and outdoor pool.

First, the good news: foreclosure notices have declined for three straight quarters in New York City, and in Queens, where foreclosures have been most prevalent, the number declined 25.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period a year ago. Now, the bad news: home prices declined between the last quarter of 2010 and the first of 2011 in every borough except Queens, where housing prices were flat but remain about one-third lower than peak values in the fourth quarter of 2006 and mid-2007.

Despite hints of recovery scattered across segments the city's real estate industry, the construction sector continues to reach new employment lows, while wages increase. Construction employment fell to 101,200 jobs in the first quarter of 2011, a 7 percent decline from the same period a year ago and the lowest total since the second quarter of 1998. The data examines the number of employees on payroll and not days worked, so the snowy 2011 winter does not impact the numbers. Of all sectors of construction, only heavy construction and civil engineering gained jobs thanks to the city's public infrastructure projects, according to the report.

Midtown's famed Palace Hotel is in contract to be sold to investment advisory firm Northwood Investors for around $400 million, or $445,000 per room. The 30-year-old Palace, at 455 Madison Avenue, has only changed hands once before and is being sold by the Brunei Investment Agency, which bought the 899-room hotel in 1993. Northwood was founded by former Blackstone Real Estate CEO John Kukral, who said in a statement that he plans to "grow the [Palace] business and further enhance its stature as a world-renowned luxury hotel." The deal is expected to close in mid-July.

SL Green Realty and Vornado Realty Trust's recapitalization deal at 280 Park Avenue is official, and involved the acquisition of "a significant majority stake" in the 41-story property. In March, the two landlords combined their $400 million worth of debt positions in the 1.2 million-square-foot office building into a 50/50 joint venture after it was revealed that owner Broadway Partners was running short on reserves and had begun seeking a capital infusion. They'll pour $150 million into luring new tenants to the increasingly vacant building, and sources have speculated that they will also put up additional funds for upgrades.

The Woolworth building's ownership is prepared to make a decision on whether the upper portion of the building will be rental apartments or a hotel within the next 30 to 45 days. Office tenants at the 57-story landmark currently occupy floors as high up as the 27th -- above that, the floors are vacant, said Steve Witkoff, CEO of the Witkoff Group and a partner in the building's ownership group, which also includes Cammeby's International head Ruby Schron. Floors 28 and up are also served by separate elevator banks, and permits to move the stairways and elevators on floors 30 through 47 -- a $6 million project -- were approved by the Department of Buildings earlier this month.

Equity One, a North Miami Beach-based real estate investment trust, said it acquired a fee interest in a retail condominium at 161 West 16th Street in Manhattan for $55 million. The 56,870-square-foot retail space, which faces Seventh Avenue between 16th and 17th streets, previously housed the original Barney's New York flagship and currently houses a Loehmann's apparel store under a lease that expires in March 2016.

A federal judge has ruled that landlord Larry Gluck did not illegaly deregulate apartments at his 1,328-unit Tribeca complex Independence Plaza at 80 North Moore Street. Gluck had previously filed a notice of appeal after a state judge ruled last summer that he had illegally deregulated the units by removing them from rent regulation while still accepting J-51 tax breaks. Gluck acquired the property, between Greenwich and West streets, in 2003 and soon after began the process of taking the development out of state rent-protection and the federal Mitchell-Lama program.

A deal to save 1180 Sixth Avenue has been completed. The property, between 46th and 47th streets, was almost foreclosed upon when the Shorenstein Group, a mezzanine loan holder, bought the equivalent of the B-note for the property and started foreclosure proceedings. Thankfully, a mystery Asian investor stepped in to rescue Murray Hill Properties' prized tower.

The foreclosure auction of a piece of defaulted mezzanine debt on the Flatiron District's MAve Hotel at 62 Madison Avenue between 27th and 28th streets, was postponed today when the property's developers filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy.

New York University wants to prove it's so valuable to Greenwich Village, that its expansion within the neighborhood will benefit everyone. The university commissioned a study by Appleseed, an independent New York-based economic research and analysis firm, that found academic institutions in Greenwich Village employ 10,350 people and dole out $611 million in annual payroll. Moreover, between March 2010 and March 2011 the city's private colleges and universities created 6,000 new jobs even as employment decreased across the city. That's particularly good news for Village residents, as 17 percent of those with jobs work in education, health care or social services in New York City, according to the report.

Themed restaurant chain Jekyll & Hyde is moving out of its flagship club at 1409 Sixth Avenue later this year, and in the meantime, the landlord has put the building up for sale for $19.5 million.. Jekyll & Hyde currently occupies the entirety of its roughly 12,000 square feet, which is also being marketed for lease to single-tenant users for $600,000 per year.

The estate of Lehman Brothers believes the 200 Fifth Avenue part of the former International Toy Center has already rebounded enough to be worth unloading, but its vacant sister building at 1107 Broadway is a different story entirely. The bank's scheduled June 6 foreclosure auction of $137 million in mezzanine debt at the 16-story property doesn't mean it will breathe new life any time soon. "The foreclosure is really to pressure the owners to make a comprehensive deal. "Lehman has to put the debt on the market, but it isn't something you'd likely buy because then you'd still have to get control of the senior loan.

Financing for New York City real estate projects is back. Of the top 35 deals done in the last 12 months, 24 were refinancing and nine were new loans taken out of acquisitions. The largest deal was an $800 million refinancing of 245 Park Avenue, for which Brookfield Asset Management and ING Clarion tapped the Bank of China. It was followed closely by Boston Properties' $700 million loan from MetLife for the Citigroup Center at 153 East 53rd Street in March 2011, and a $650 million refinancing of One Bryant Park between 42nd and 43rd streets in June last year by Bank of America.

The buyer paying upwards of $80 million to take over the legendary Hotel Chelsea has been revealed as New York real estate developer Joseph Chetrit. The Chelsea's longtime tenants will be happy to know that Chetrit is not planning a condominium conversion. Chetrit will renovate and modernize the landmark 222 West 23rd Street building, known for housing artists like Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Jim Morrison over the course of its 127-year history.

The Henry T. Sloane mansion at 18 East 68th Street, between Madison and Fifth avenues, is going to auction on June 22. The residence, which boasts more than 30 rooms and Beaux-Arts touches, has been bounced back and forth between brokerages and the asking price has gone from $64 million to the current asking price of $37.9 million. If the mansion had sold for $64 million in 2008, it would have been the most expensive single residence sold in New York's history. The current owner, an investment group managed by banker Joseph Ingrassia, has defaulted on more than $28 million in loans. The group bought the property for $20 million from an owner listed under a limited liability company. That company purchased for $7.6 million in 2003.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge on Thursday approved a plan by developer Trevor Davis to resume selling apartments at his troubled condominium project, 1055 Park Avenue. The ruling by Judge Shelley Chapman should help resolve more than six months of legal battles between Davis and his lenders, who were about to foreclose on the troubled condominium in late December.

Istar Financial has finalized a deal to sell the $84 million senior mortgage debt at 47 East 34th Street to CIM Group, after the court issued a final judgment against the previous borrowers Esplanade Capital. Documents filed with the city Department of Finance on Wednesday show that CIM Group acquired the loan from iStar on May 13, and court documents in Manhattan Supreme Court show that the Los Angeles- based firm has filed documents to replace iStar as the plaintiff if the foreclosure case.

New York Waterway will start a new ferry service along the East River at some point next month, although the company wouldn't provide an exact starting date. The ferry will connect Greenpoint, Williamsburg and DUMBO to Long Island City, Lower Manhattan and Midtown every 20 minutes on weekdays, and will make extra stops at Atlantic Avenue and Governors Island on weekends. The new project will be funded by a three-year, $9.3 million subsidy from the city, and its sustainability will depend on ridership.

The foreclosed, lawsuit-laden, incomplete tower that stands at One Madison Avenue scared away most of New York City's big-name developers.. So it came as quite a surprise last month, when a man intent on rising to those ranks agreed to pay $165 million to acquire the Flatiron tower. That man is Ziel Feldman, and it's one of several risky bets the head of HFZ Capital is making in the midst of a market recovery. It started during the boom, when Feldman successfully refurbished a pre-war condo at 823 Park Avenue, and sold units for more than $2,000 per square foot.

The decision to rent or to buy isn't one that only affects home-seekers. It's also a dilemma that businesses face. And increasingly, New York businesses want to buy their office space, which has bumped up the demand for office condominiums. Much of the shift is due to cultural preferences. While many American businesses in the city prefer to lease office space to accommodate future growth, changing market conditions and other factors, foreign businesses favor purchases. Asian businesses, in particular, covet office condos.

Hotel sales accounted for nearly 45 percent of the dollar volume in commercial deals from mid-March to mid-April of this year, despite the completion of just a single deal: the sale of the Helmsley Hotel at 212 East 42nd Street to Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which plans to brand the building a Westin. That deal followed a quiet previous four weeks for hotel deals, when just $43.87 million worth of hotel transactions closed. As usual, multi-family sales were the most frequent in the commercial segment, responsible for 14 of the 30 commercial deals consumated between March 11 and April 10.

The redevelopment of the Domino Sugar factory on the Williamsburg waterfront cleared its last major hurdle yesterday when a New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that had challenged the 11-acre site's rezoning. Tthe lawsuit, filed by the Williamsburg Community Preservation Coalition against the city and the developer of the project, Community Preservation Resources Corp., had charged that environmental reviews had been unsatisfactory prior to the City Council's approval of the $2 billion plan last July.

International law firm Morrison & Foerster has signed a 15-year lease to take 180,000 square feet, at 250 West 55th Street, Boston Properties' planned $1.05 billion, one million-square-foot office building in Midtown. Construction on the 39-story building, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, began in late 2007, but was suspended as a result of the recession in 2009, after the completion of excavation and foundations. It is slated to resume in the fall of this year and be completed by 2014.

Huguette Clark, the 104-year-old copper heiress whose intensely reclusive lifestyle and collection of empty mansions has made her the subject of public curiosity in recent years, died recentlly. Clark is best known in New York City real estate circles as the owner of a 42-room spread at 907 Fifth Avenue valued at around $100 million.

New York-based real estate private equity firm Savanna acquired 100 Wall Street from Lehman Brothers Holdings through a UCC foreclosure auction, the company announced today. The 29-story, 504,000-square-foot office building is 77 percent occupied, and lists law firm Harris Beach, the Bank of Taiwan and the New York Stock Exchange as tenants.

This isn't Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs' finest hour. In addition to a feud with longtime business partner Harry Lis, and an impending foreclosure at their 610 Lexington Avenue development site, Rosen and Fuchs' RFR Holding is also now running low on cash at 980 Madison Avenue. The loan on the five-story, 100,000-square-foot building, is still current, , it has entered special servicing and could go into default when it matures in October.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world's richest man and the newly-minted owner of the Duke Semans Mansion on Fifth Avenue, has picked up another Manhattan abode. The five-story Felissimo Townhouse at 10 West 56th Street, will now be home to the New York operations of Slim's Grupo Carso. The conglomerate purchased the limestone property for $15.5 million in cash.

Five tenants at 30 Lincoln Plaza have filed suit against Milstein Properties alleging the firm previously sold condominium units to outside buyers at huge discounts, but refused to offer the same deals to existing residents, and now refuses to allow them to close on their purchase agreements. The suit, filed May 5 in New York State Supreme Court, alleges fraud, breach of contract and other claims against the developer, which owns the 33-story tower at 30 West 63rd Street, near Central Park.

Apple is among the retailers interested in renting a 15,320-square-foot space in Grand Central Terminal that comprises two adjacent balconies on the north and east sides of the transit hub. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking a single renter for the space, part of which is currently occupied by Metrazur restaurant, which is set to close July 1.

Once among the top construction firms in New York City, HRH Construction, the 86-year-old company that built Citigroup's Midtown headquarters and many of Donald Trump's metro-area projects, is now mired in bankruptcy court and fighting off allegations of fraud.

The city has been preparing for years for the opening of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum on this year's 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Planners of the $508 million project overlooked one minor detail: there won't be a single toilet on the eight-acre plaza to accommodate the millions of visitors expected. The memorial, which will display the names of the 2,982 victims of the terrorist attacks around two large reflecting pools, will eventually sit above a seven-story, below-grade museum, slated to open in the fall of 2012. The museum will of course have bathrooms, but the city said it has no plans to bring porta-potties to the site prior to its debut.
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