The scrappy NYC real estate litigator is handling some of the most contentious cases in the industry — with a dogged aggressiveness and far-right political leanings
Over his 25-year career in New York real estate litigation, Stephen Meister has represented the likes of Harry Macklowe, Donald Trump, Joseph Moinian, Larry Gluck and other heavy Manhattan real estate hitters. But they have usually dialed him up when debt has piled on, a partner has gotten combative or they need to navigate their way out of a contract.
“I just have to be comfortable that I have the facts right,” said Meister. “I either have the law on my side or some reasonable extension of the law.”
Lately, this scrappy Manhattan attorney — who, depending on who you ask, is best known for wild Hail Marys or righteous campaigns of monetary justice — has been popping up even more than usual with clients in less-than-enviable situations rushing to retain him.
And the cases he’s handling are among the juiciest and most contentious in the city.
He is currently representing the Connecticut company AmBase Corporation, which is facing foreclosure at 111 West 57th Street, a planned luxury supertall. He’s also got Ralph Sitt — the investor feuding with family members over control of 2 Herald Square — who has been accused by his one of his brothers and a group of investors of forging documents to make it seem like he was the sole owner of the building. And he was recently working for Joseph Beninati, whose upstart development firm Bauhouse Group made a daring (albeit unsuccessful) attempt to regain control of the development site at 3 Sutton Place.
That’s not to mention Trump, Meister’s former client, for whom he argued the financial crisis was an act of God that prevented the developer from being able to pay his debts to Deutsche Bank.
Meister, an occasional conservative op-ed writer with many Fox News appearances under his belt, is also landing controversial clients outside of real estate.
This spring, he was hired by the uber-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who is seeking $10 million from Simon Schuster after the publisher scrapped plans to release his autobiography, “Dangerous.” The decision to nix the book came after year-old footage emerged of the author — and now former Breitbart News editor — appearing to condone sex with minors.
Talking generally, Janice Mac Avoy, a real estate litigator at Fried Frank who has faced off against Meister on real estate cases, said he is known for taking positions that are “outside of the norm.”
“He’s on the right side of the line as far as still maintaining credibility, but he’s not afraid to look at that line,” she said.
‘The guilty man’s lawyer’?
Since co-founding Meister, Seelig Fein in 1994, Meister has established himself as a fixer for investors and developers in the middle of so-called “tranche warfare,” or infighting with their financial partners.
He gained prominence after the 2008 financial crisis when he represented Moinian in a high-profile dispute against Related Companies and Deutsche Bank at 3 Columbus Circle. He also represented Yair Levy — who in 2014 was banned from ever selling apartments in New York City again — and others in their post-crash troubles.
Real estate attorney Joshua Stein said Meister — whose 2010 book “Commercial Real Estate Restructuring Revolution: Strategies, Tranche Warfare, and Prospects for Recovery” features reviews from conservative commentator Larry Kudlow and Trump — often takes on hairy cases where contracts didn’t address or “really think through” certain outcomes.
“He tends to get involved in those litigations,” Stein said
That’s certainly an accurate description of his current caseload.
At 111 West 57th, he’s representing AmBase’s Richard Bianco, a little-known figure whose company’s only assets are its Connecticut office and its stake in one of the most high-profile condo projects in the city.
Ralph Sitt, meanwhile, stands accused by one of his brothers, Eddie, of “starving” 2 Herald Square. Eddie and a新爱上海同城对对碰论坛