If you live at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan, you know you have extra-luxurious living space, and your neighbours are just as nice: Singer Jennifer Lopez, a member of the family that owns the tequila brand Jose Cuervo, Saudi tycoon Fawaz Al Khokair, and other millionaires.
At 426 metres, it is the third tallest building in New York City and the tallest residential building in the world. The views from the top floors, 85 in all, are breathtaking, as are the prices for apartments, 104 in total, which start at several million and end in tens of millions of dollars (the most expensive at $95 million is Fawaz al-Hokair’s penthouse with six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and a library).
The skyscraper, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly on the principle of “pure geometric shape” and built for $1.25 billion, has everything you could wish for, from its own restaurant and fitness centre with sauna and swimming pool to a golf course.
But who would have thought the owners of the apartments would sue the developers for defects in the skyscraper’s construction, and the defects are about a thousand and a half, from stuck lifts and leaking ceilings to monstrous, inexplicable noises.
And yet the skyscraper was only commissioned six years ago, and the flats in it were selling for tens of millions of dollars.
Complaints from tenants and accusations of incompetence by the builders and the company that manages the property were first reported by the New York Times back in February 2021.
The article reported how, in 2018, a leak on the technical floor put two lifts out of service for weeks. Several flats were also flooded, and at least one potential buyer turned down the deal after learning of it.
Among other things, residents of the prestigious properties complained of lifts getting stuck in high winds as a result of the shaft deflecting, creaking noises made by the entire structure, unpleasant vibrations, as well as explosions in the electrical plumbing and the rubbish chute, which, according to one flat owner, made a bomb-like sound, making them shudder every time.
A study commissioned by a group of tenants found that 73 per cent of the building’s electrical, plumbing and mechanical infrastructure did not comply with design plans.
Residents also complained about the exorbitant prices of restaurant services, which are included in the rent. They jumped from $1,200 in 2015 to $15,000 in 2020. The cost of insurance has risen by 300% in just two years.
As a result, residents of the troubled skyscraper have filed a $250 million class action lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against the developers and developers, CIM Group and Macklowe Properties, citing life-risk issues as the cause. However, the amount quoted does not include possible punitive damages, nor the size of individual claims that may subsequently be brought.
“The owners paid tens of millions of dollars for the flats, but instead of the super-luxury apartments they were promised, they were sold a mess of breakdowns and defects,” reads the letter accompanying the lawsuit.
For their part, the developers insist in their own statement that 432 Park Avenue is considered one of Manhattan’s finest residential properties and an invaluable addition to the New York skyline.
To make matters worse, they cite the fact that the management company’s access to some flats is restricted, preventing them from fixing problems, and point to “some particularly vociferous tenants”.
Meanwhile, since the beginning of 2021 and when the lawsuit was filed, only one flat sale has taken place in the skyscraper, although buyers were offered a choice of 11 apartments.