Tribeca Film Festival Sues Developer for $100 Million in Breach of Contract Lawsuit
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Craig Hatkoff, Jane Rosenthal, and Robert DeNiro. It has generated an estimated $750 million in economic activity for New York City. It has strong ties to the community, a commitment to making cultural programming available to the public, and over four million people have attended its many cultural events. It seems that the Tribeca Film Festival would make a splendid business partner. Somehow, however, one developer is managing to botch the relationship.
Pier 57 in the Meatpacking District has long been in need of a makeover. So the Tribeca Film Festival and developer Young Woo & Associates partnered to make that happen, only to have the developer exploit Tribeca’s good name in the bidding process, according to the complaint recently filed by Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Enterprises.
According to the suit, the developer was competing for the right to lease the high-value waterfront property. The Hudson River Park Trust decided who was awarded leasing rights, and one of the factors in the decision was the question of which developer would put a significant portion of the property towards public use. In 2009, Tribeca Enterprises and Young Woo & Associates allegedly made a deal whereby, for $1 in annual rent, the Tribeca Film Festival would establish a permanent outdoor venue on the rooftop of the pier, offering mostly free film, music, and art events. Additionally, the developer would contribute up to $5 million towards improvements, Tribeca would keep 80 percent of the profits from events, concessions, and advertising, and Tribeca received naming rights for the pier. In other words, Tribeca was to be the cultural anchor of the property.
The developer submitted the proposal to the Hudson River Park Trust, allegedly highlighting Tribeca’s involvement in the project and using Tribeca’s name and prestige to secure the bid award. But it was a sham, Tribeca says. The developer won the bid and then allegedly reneged on the deal in order to maximize profits. The developer unilaterally announced that the pier would be called SuperPier, attempted to re-purpose the rooftop as a profit center instead of a public space, and “took the position that the economic arrangement reached between it and Tribeca going into the public approval process no longer suited it, and that it wanted to re-negotiate all of the economic terms on which the parties based their entire arrangement,” according to the complaint.
Tribeca seeks over $100 million in damages and specific performance of the deal.