Criticized landlord faces foreclosure
By JEFF TESTERMAN, Times Staff Writer
SunTrust Bank says Green missed two $3,789 monthly payments and failed to keep insurance on his three-story home at 801 S Delaware Ave. He now owes the bank $978,867, which is the balance of his mortgage, according to a foreclosure lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
The bank also says Green has refused to file a current financial statment and failed to pay a $748,355 commercial loan that was due June 14. SunTrust has asked a judge to order the Delaware Avenue home auctioned off to satisfy the two debts.
"Well, there goes the third-floor ballroom," said attorney Ronald Cotterill, referring to the top story of Green's renovated mansion, an 8,157-square-foot structure that features an elaborate staircase and is guarded by statues of lions.
Cotterill represents a painting firm and carpet company that were among a host of contractors who did work for Green's apartment companies and then said Green stiffed them.
Green disputes SunTrust's contention.
In a statement faxed from his Yonkers office, Green said SunTrust decided to demand full payment of his mortgage after he was late on only one payment. Green insists he is current on the home loan.
"I have never in my life heard of a bank doing such a thing," Green said in his statement. He said his attorneys were preparing an appropriate response.
Before coming to Tampa, Green, 37, a onetime Yonkers delicatessen worker, acquired a string of New York City apartment buildings and a reputation as a slum landlord.
In 1990, the Village Voice named him one of the city's 10 worst landlords. Green was once jailed after he turned off hot water in a Queens apartment complex in midwinter. He still owes the city $2.3-million in fines.
In Tampa, Green leveraged venture capital loans to buy a dozen apartment complexes valued at more than $40-million. But, as in New York, renters suffered.
In May, scores of tenants scurried to find new quarters after county inspectors padlocked Green's 212-unit Amberwood apartments in northern Hillsborough. The county listed some 500 violations, including fire damage, exposed wires, water-damaged walls and disconnected fire alarms.
On some violations, the county levied $750-a-day fines. Green's code enforcement case became the largest in Hillsborough's history.
Today, the Amberwood Apartments remain vacated and fenced, and Green is negotiating to pay off about $50,000 in fines owed to the county.
"We are experiencing a new degree of cooperation from Mr. Green," said Don Shea, the county's director of community improvement. "He's changed management companies and that's helped."
The situation at Amberwood remains unresolved, but the county is satisfied that an unsafe property has been secured with proper fencing.
"He's probably looking at litigation there," Shea said. "He indicated he was unaware of some of the structural problems at Amberwood that existed when he bought it. At least, that's what he's told us."
Green bought Amberwood for $4-million in May 2000, using a $7-million Arbor National Mortgage Co. loan for the purchase. After a series of renovations -- and contractors' liens totaling more than $168,000 -- Green got a new loan from First Union National Bank, this one for $9.04-million.
The Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office says Amberwood was nowhere near that value. Their tax assessment: $3.5-million.
Green bought the Delaware Avenue home, a second home, for $1.45-million one month after buying Amberwood.
Soon after restoring the home, Green began to host the extravagant soirees to which his neighbors in the Park Hill neighborhood of Yonkers had become accustomed.
Guests dined on caviar and lobster. In Yonkers, they were entertained by the 1970's hitmakers, Captain and Tennille. In Tampa, the guest celebrity was singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka.
"After one of his parties here, neighbors began calling him 'the prince,' " Cotterill said. "But I sort of thought they meant Machiavelli's prince."
What has some scratching their heads now is why Green would let his Hyde Park home fall into foreclosure when his companies are apparently keeping up with the payments on all the apartments, including Amberwood, now locked and empty.
"It makes absolutely no sense," said James P. Stanton, an attorney representing a plumbing contractor who is suing Green for $31,496 for work done at several of Green's complexes.
"But it does lend itself to my theory, and that is that he is using his apartment companies to suck money out for his own personal use."
-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this article. Jeff Testerman can be reached at (813) 226-3422 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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