A billionaire hedge fund honcho carved out a personal driveway in a West Village sidewalk — and didn’t pay a dime for the brazen annexation of public space.
Deep-pocketed investor Noam Gottesman — who built himself a corner compound on Jane and Washington Sts. over a decade ago — gave himself the ultimate upgrade during the renovation process: his own private parking spot on one of the city’s most coveted streets.
The sleight-of-hand was achieved thanks to what the Department of Buildings says is an illegal curb cut — an unauthorized slice into the edges of the city sidewalk to make it appear as if a driveway exists at 777 Washington St.
His team insisted in a city court hearing in May that the building has the right to a curb cut ― but in fact Gottesman, 58, installed his personal perk without the proper permits, and is maintaining it without permission, DOB confirmed to the Daily News.
“The plans for the ... project do not show any curb cuts and the owner did not apply for an accessory-use curb cut during this process, as required. In addition, the building’s current certificate of occupancy does not reflect a legal curb cut,” said DOB spokesman Joe Soldevere.
That hasn’t stopped Gottesman’s employees from shooing away neighbors — and one News reporter — who have tried to use the space. Although there’s no street sign that declares the spot off-limits, Gottesman’s posted “No Parking” and “Active Driveway” warnings on the big black doors at his sprawling complex’s back entrance. Any attempt to park there immediately brings out hired hands from the building to warn people off.
When a News reporter pulled into the empty space Monday morning, a man emerged within seconds.
“You will be towed,” he said, pointing to the yellow words on the black door behind him, which was open enough to reveal a set of stairs leading up to a balcony landing.
Asked if the residence was a garage, he replied, “Yes, it is .... We tow people immediately. I’m sorry. Immediately.”
Neighbor Eyal Levin found that out the hard way in late May, when he parked in the spot in an act of defiance and then found his silver Toyota Camry towed. It took hours for Levin to track down his car in a lot in Queens ― and he had to pay $201 to get it back, according to documents reviewed by The News.
Levin, 52, has feuded with security at Gottesman’s house over the parking spot for at least three years now, he said.
“It’s all a scam ... He doesn’t have a freaking driveway,” Levin said. “He just has fake signs on it. He knows it, everybody knows it and still they try to intimidate everybody about it. I found it to be outrageous. It’s outrageous to put that sign up when you have this huge mansion.”
The “driveway” serves as a reserved on-street parking space and an easy way for Gottesman’s home to receive deliveries, Levin said.
“I say to them show me a driveway and I will move my car but don’t insult me with your lies. And I tell them do not touch my car because I am legally parked.”
On May 23, the parking beef came to a head and Levin’s car was hauled away, which he discovered when he came out the next morning to take his son to school. When he inquired with Gottesman’s workers about his car, he was told to “go to the precinct,” he said. Levin went to the nearby 6th precinct, where he eventually learned his car was towed by a private company to a Maspeth lot.
When he got out there, Levin found an illegible handwritten $95 ticket on his windshield for blocking a driveway signed by an NYPD officer.
“The whole ticket thing is very fishy,” Levin said. It didn’t show up in the city’s online database for more than a month after it was filed, he said, and then it only appeared, he believes, because he made a complaint about it to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office.
Levin fought the ticket and the city’s Department of Finance dismissed it out of hand because the cop didn’t fill out all the fields correctly, he said.
“It’s just despicable,” Levin fumed.
The NYPD on Monday confirmed that the violation was handwritten by one of its officers, and said the cop was flagged down in the street to ticket a car for blocking a driveway.
The private tow company, Kwik Automotive, confirmed to The News that it towed Levin’s car from 777 Washington St. after getting a phone call request from someone at the address. But the company can’t move vehicles unless the NYPD has ticketed them first, the company said.
“It’s illegal for us to move a car that doesn’t have a ticket,” said a woman who answered the phone at Kwik Automotive.
Gottesman, who once dated Queens actress Lucy Liu, bought the West Village property in 2008 for $35 million and built his home from scratch, which he owns through 777 Washington LLC. He made his fortune through a hedge fund, GLG Partners, and has invested in fancy restaurants like Eleven Madison Park. He also owned Europe’s largest frozen food company. Forbes estimates he’s worth $2.7 billion.
So far, he’s avoided paying any fines for his “driveway.”
The DOB issued a $500 violation for the illegal curb cut earlier this year after receiving a complaint — but records show that on May 6, court hearing officer Lyda Tyburec dismissed the fine after she determined that the summons for the curb cut did “not include any facts to constitute a violation” under the cited Buildings code.
A rep for Gottesman claimed he had obtained a permit for the curb cut and submitted documentation, according to records from the city’s administrative law court, OATH. Calls and emails to Gottesman’s rep were not returned by deadline.
OATH records don’t show what material Gottesman’s rep presented at the hearing, but the property at 777 Washington St. was a parking garage in the 1940s and had a legal curb cut then, DOB told The News. That permit is no longer valid, the DOB said.
“When an owner files to change the use of a building – in this case, from commercial to residential – items like decades-old curb cuts are no longer grandfathered from current rules,” said spokesman Soldevere, noting that Gottesman failed to try to re-legalize the cut in 2008 when he filed for a major alteration of the building.
“DOB will re-route an inspector to investigate and take further enforcement action, if warranted,” he told The News.
Barry Kazan, a lawyer representing Gottesman, said Monday that the curb cut is in line with city rules. “We believe we’ve complied with everyone we’re supposed to comply with. We take these issues seriously,” Kazan said.
In the meantime, Levin remained vigilant.
“They think they can get rid of me but I’m not going anywhere,” Levin said.
With Rocco Parascandola