By Kathryn G. Menu
After three months of not receiving a paycheck for his work as the general contractor of the luxury condominium project at 21 West Water Street in Sag Harbor, Roy Wines IV, the president of Southampton-based RLW4 Construction, was left with no other choice but to walk off the job last October.
Wines returned over the course of the winter, to ensure the building was safe from damaging winter weather and precipitation, but it was a brief return as the bank originally on board to fund the condominium project, Amalgamated Bank, stopped financing the project over a year ago. That left a number of sub-contractors, suppliers and even Wines himself not only without a paycheck for labor, but still holding onto bills for materials bought for the multi-million project.
Despite mounting liens filed with the Suffolk County clerk against the project — over $3 million — this week, condo developers East End Ventures principal Emil Talel said negotiations with Amalgamated Bank were becoming more productive and that he expects a new loan agreement to be worked out before summer’s end.
“Negotiations are moving ahead to restructure the financing for the 21 West Water condominium project in Sag Harbor,” said Bob Rinklin, external representative for Amalgamated Bank’s Institutional Asset Management & Custody Division in response to requests for comment. “We expect that when the agreement between the ULTRA Fund and the borrower is in place, the project will be completed as planned.
According to Talel, the reasons Amalgamated Bank originally stopped funding the project last summer stem from a combination of the faltering economy and housing market and a rotating change in management at the bank.
“We are now dealing with a team who is productive and they have every intention to restart the project,” said Talel. “We have to make some changes to our agreement and we hope we will be able to re-start in the second half of August and after that, I would say we are about 60 days from being completed.”
Talel added paying off the liens against the project will be a top priority once funding is restored, coupled with efforts to finish the condo project in order to begin negotiating sales of the 19-units on the waterfront property.
When completed, the condominiums will offer residents luxury amenities including a rooftop pool and sauna, which Wines said is completed and ready to be installed, as well as five-star concierge services. According to Prudential Douglas Elliman’s listings for the units, they range in price from $1,695,000 to $3,050,000, and range in size from 1,507 square-feet to 1,974 square-feet.
According to Robert Evjen, the principal broker for the condos, while interest has been high, buyers in this market want to see the project completed before signing a contract for one of the units.
“We continue to get interested buyers — we have a long list, but they want a turnkey building,” he said. “We are almost there.”
Talel said he understands why approximately 20 to 30 liens have been filed against the project since October of last year, citing it as a standard practice when a project is stalled while waiting for a new loan agreement.
Contractors have a right to file liens for any unpaid services and materials during the course of any construction, which would give them the right to pursue those monies should the property be sold before they are compensated.
One of the highest liens against the property is for $843,072 for materials and labor related to carpentry from the Mount Sinai-based JPR2 Inc. Inter-County Mechanical Corp. also has a $510,241 lien against the property, All Systems Maintenance Inc. has filed a $247,794 lien for plumbing related materials, Southampton Brick & Tile has a $94,340 lien and B&G Electrical Contractors of NY Inc. has filed a $630,274 lien against the condos, to name a few of the larger claims that have been levied against the project.
B&G Electric has gone as far as to file suit with the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Suffolk County seeking the monies they are owed, as has A&F Fire Protection Co. Inc., which has a $25,000 lien against the property for engineering, drafting and professional services.
“When banks stop funding, contractors get nervous and have to protect themselves,” said Talel this week. “We are not upset with them and have good working relationships. The plan is to pay the liens off and get our building, which is 85 to 90 percent complete, completed.”
Wines agreed the project was very close to completion, noting some of the units need to be trimmed, the pool needs to be installed, landscaping needs to be planted and other cosmetic work to the building.
“We are that close,” he said.
Wines has not filed a lien against the project, noting if he did, he would need to incorporate labor costs and materials from sub-contractors he hired for the project, but is hopeful it will not come to that.
He also added that the liens recorded with the county are an overstatement of what is actually owed, with monies owed to some material suppliers accounted for in two separate liens — one they filed themselves, and one filed by the contractor they gave the materials to.
“I expect to see us back to work very soon,” he said. “I am hopeful in the next 30 to 45 days we will see the trades are able to get back to work.”