Word of a new Shake Shack being built on a parking lot in Nolita came as a surprise to burger fans and a downright shock to us. It's a Gottlieb property, after all, and Gottlieb properties are known for rotting, not resuscitation. But with the massive Gottlieb portfolio now in the hands of disputed heir Neil Bender, maybe that pattern is breaking. Or, um, maybe not. Today the Observer profiles Neil Bender?or at least attempts to, because he's M.I.A.?and it turns out he may even be worse than the late Bill Gottlieb, the reclusive absentee landlord who assembled this empire and left it all to slowly fall apart. Dana Rubinstein writes, "Tenants describe a landlord who is even more unresponsive to their needs than his predecessors. Real estate professionals describe a landlord who doesn't return phone calls and who conducts business out of his attorneys' office." And those are the kindest words being offered about the newly minted biggest Greenwich Village landlord of them all.
Some quotes from tenants (both residential and commercial) dealing with Bender:
1) "At first he was there all the time. Now you can't even get into the office at 544 Hudson Street. It's sealed up like Fort Knox."
2) "It's like they're trying to turn the neighborhood into a slum."
3) "Bill Gottlieb kept the storefronts full. He may not have kept them up, but they were full."
And the Bender Era even has The Great Keith McNally (whose Pastis restaurant is in a Gottlieb-owned building) recalling the Bill Gottlieb days fondly. This all leads to an important question: Does Neil Bender actually exist? Maybe. Rubinstein writes:
Mr. Bender continues to control Greenwich Village's most storied, and most ramshackle, empire, his intentions unknown, his ambitions unclear. He assigns everyday maintenance to a handful of trusted jacks-of-all-trades with janitor-size key rings. He's been spotted touring the Village in the back seat of a chauffeured minivan, intentionally or not evoking the legend of his uncle Billy, who would shamble about in a beat-up station wagon.Sweet dreams, very vocal Gottlieb tenants, and if you happen to notice a minivan idling outside, might we suggest running for your lives?
· King Neil of Greenwich Village [NYO]
· Gottliebs coverage [Curbed]