He's a millionaire vs. billionaire in the battle of the SoHo pergola (2023)

He's a millionaire vs. billionaire in the battle of the SoHo pergola (1)

The Great Reading

The roof of a historic building is the focus of a renovation between Federico Pignatelli, a financier, and Ray Dalio, the hedge fund magnate.

Federico Pignatelli blames his neighbor's construction project for the broken mirror in his bathroom.Credit...Yuvraj Khanna for The New York Times

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WithKatherine Rossman

Millions of Americans started home improvement projects during the pandemic. Many of these projects disturbed their neighbors.

But in SoHo, on the top floor of a co-op building with multimillion-dollar ceilings, an apartment addition is at the center of a conflict unique to New York, where a wealthy financier namedFederico Pignatelli fra LøvindenmodRay Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund.

The Dalio family's pandemic project was a penthouse towering 13 feet above the center of the roof, with a 2,000-square-foot landscaped deck and a roughly 50-foot pergola, above a sixth-floor apartment that various Mr. Dalio's children had. lived for years.

Mr. Pignatelli, who lives in the loft next door, claims the weight of the construction is crushing his own apartment - and may also endanger the rest of the building.


He's a millionaire vs. billionaire in the battle of the SoHo pergola (3)

Mr. Dalio is known in the financial world for advocating "radical transparency." is the cornerstone of his best-selling book, "Principles."

But Mr. Pignatelli, who left New York for a home in Los Angeles in the early months of the pandemic, said his neighbors didn't tell him about the expansion until construction began. Mr. Pignatelli said he returned to New York in May 2021 to find heavy construction materials strewn across part of his roof and a penthouse towering over the Dalios.

After nearly a year of texting the Dalios and the co-op president about the disturbance, Mr. Pignatelli went to court and filed suit against Mr. Dalio, one of his sons, two daughters-in-law, two architects, two engineers, a contractor, the board of directors of the building society and the chairman of the board.

"I'm Italian, Ray's Italian, we're neighbors!" Mr. Pignatelli said as he offered a tour of the apartment, which he no longer sleeps in for fear of it collapsing on top of him. "We should respect each other and help each other, but he is incredibly arrogant."

In legal filings, Mr. Dalio and the other defendants deny wrongdoing.

A lawyer for the Dalio family said in a statement that they had obtained all the necessary approvals for the project and had tried to work with Mr. Pignatelli to address his concerns. "We have confidence that the justice system will handle this situation properly," said Tom Sinchak, the attorney.


While his case is winning its way through the courts, Mr. Pignatelli has found new urgency in his case in recent weeks. Aftercollapseof a concrete garage in Lower Manhattan killed one person and injured five others in April, one of his lawyers sent a 24-page letter to Mayor Eric Adams and city Department of Buildings officials outlining why his client believes Dalio's construction poses a similar risk to the apartment building that runs from West Broadway to Thompson Street.

"The new penthouse, deck and related structure as occupied - essentially a new 7th floor - imposes a load estimated to exceed 200,000 pounds, supported and supported by the 140-year-old building's wood columns, which were never designed to support," the letter said.

In an email to The Times, a Department of Buildings spokesman said its inspectors visited Dalio's structure last May. They found it was "not in full compliance" with city-approved plans, but was "not in compliance with any structurally unsafe conditions."

Soon after, the Dalios announced to the city that they would "fix" the problem. "We continue to be in contact with the owner," the city spokesman said. "They need to fix the issues with the control. It hasn't been done yet."

The chairman of the building's co-op board and his lawyer declined to comment, but an engineering report commissioned by the council found "cosmetic" damage to Mr. Pignatelli's apartment likely caused by the Dalio project, but "no basis for any conclusion that The newly constructed roof deck and penthouse above Unit 6G compromises the building in any way.'

Special apartments in a special building


It might be hard for most New Yorkers (and certainly most non-New Yorkers) to relate to a dispute between ultra-wealthy homeowners over a historic building in one of the city's swankiest neighborhoods. Couldn't the Dalios buy a bigger apartment with a roof terrace? Couldn't Mr. Pignatelli ask Dalios to buy him out?

Mr. Dalio has written extensively about how his approach to investing is guided by mantras like "Don't pick your battles. Fight them all."

Pignatelli noted that these are special apartments in a special building in a special neighborhood.

The ceilings are in a building called the West Broadway Arches, a building in the city's signature SoHo-Cast IronHistoric districtExtension with entrances on West Broadway and Thompson Street. The wooden structure was designed in a Romanesque Revival style characterized by grand arches, a brick and cast-iron facade, by Oscar S. Teale, architect andmagicianwho was a friend of Harry Houdini. Built in the 1880s, it was a manufacturing center for the Marvin Safe Company before being developed into a residential building starting in the 1970s.

Mr. Pignatelli's 2,400-square-foot loft features exposed brick walls, 140-year-old wooden columns, an arched window overlooking a courtyard and a den at the top of a staircase. Members of the Dalio family have two large apartments in the building: one next to Mr. Pignatellis and one on the floor below.

Sir. Pignatelli bought his apartment, Unit 6H, in 1991 for $650,000, at a time when few lofts in SoHo were affordable for non-artists. It turned out to be a smart investment (unit on the second floorsoldin 2019 for $3.6 million), but Mr. Pignatelli said he was not attracted to the apartment's profit potential. He loved SoHo and knew it was special to live among artists.

"I really wanted it because of the location and the quiet," he said. "I hate the noise and I like the view."


Mr. Born and raised in Rome, Pignatelli moved to New York for work in the middle of a career in finance. For a few decades he divided his time between New York - where he foundedPier 59 Studioin Manhattan and developed the space into an advertising production facility - and in Los Angeles, where his daughter grew up, while he also spent time in Milan.

He has sued the co-op board twice before, both cases involving the roof. In 2004, a neighbor built a fireplace with a chimney that blocked Mr. Pignatelli's view. (As part of a settlement, he removed it, according to legal documents.) In 2014, the board refused to reinstall a 140-square-foot flat roof with two chairs that it had removed while performing maintenance, he said. (As part of that settlement, the positions were filled and returned, the documents state.)

New neighbors

In April 2013, Unit 6G, which is next to Mr Pignatelli's loft,boughtfor $4.3 million from a limited liability company associated with Bridgewater Associates. Almost six months later, L.L.C. also bought Unit 5G, just below that, for $2.87 million.

Bridgewater was founded in 1975 by Mr. Dalio, who retired as chairman last year, and whoForbeswas named the 83rd richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $19 billion.

Dalio's lawyer said the apartment is owned and occupied by Mr. Dalio's children. He said Mr. Pignatelli "improperly included Mr. Dalio as a defendant in an apparent attempt to try to embarrass him into settling."

For several years, 6G was occupied by Mr. Dalio's sonPaul Dalio, director and wife of Paul,Christina Nikolova Dalio, filmmaker.

The neighbors had mostly friendly relations. Mr. Pignatelli said Ms. Dalio asked to see his apartment in 2019: "She said, 'I want to see your place for inspiration because I know it's very beautiful.'

As her family grew, Mr Pignatelli said she told him they needed more space. Would Mr. Pignatelli be willing to sell his apartment to her and her husband?

"I said, 'no, I'm not interested,'" he said. "Then he said, 'Oh, we're going to have to move.' So I said, "You know, if you're moving and you want to sell your house, let me know."

Things are decentralized. In February 2020, Mr. Pignatelli texted Matthew Dicker, co-op board president, to complain about items the Dalios had left in the building's hallway: shoes, umbrellas, toys and packages.

“They keep their door open for hours during the day,” Mr. Pignatelli wrote, “with children playing and screaming in this room (why not inside their house?) and I have to hear them scream or to play the piano as if. my children." (Mr. Dicker replied in a text: "Yes." Contacted by The Times, he declined to comment.)

In March, when the pandemic subsided, Mr. Pignatelli went to Los Angeles, where he spent much of the rest of the year.

Back in New York, the Dalios, unable to expand horizontally, decided to create and convert a roughly 4-foot-tall, 260-square-foot bulkhead above their loft into a stucco penthouse with a kitchenette, a half-bath, and a 2,000-square-foot landscaped deck. feet.

In August 2020, an architect hired by the Dalios presented a plan to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to renovate what he described in a conference call as the "existing penthouse" — referring to the bulkhead — and add a wooden deck and pergola.

Because the roof was not built to support the weight of this type of structure, the architect explained to the Landmarks Commission, the proposed deck platform would rest on a series of steel ties supported by the building's wooden columns below the roof.

The committee approved the plans, as did the Ministry of Buildings.


In December 2020, Ms. Dalio sent an email to Mr. Pignatelli. "We wanted to let you know that we are planning to renovate our bulkhead and eventually build the roof deck," he wrote. Later she sent him the plans.

Mr. Pignatelli said her email detracted from the project. "He talked about 'renovation,'" he said. "What they actually did was build a whole new seventh floor." He said he was traveling and overlooked the email he sent with the plans.

"I tried to warn you"

When he returned to New York in May 2021, Mr Pignatelli said the construction noise was unbearable and left within a week for Italy. In his absence, his assistant visited the apartment regularly and noted what they believe are signs of damage: A door no longer closed in the door frame, paint on his brick walls was peeling, wooden columns were leaning and cracks were appearing in the walls. .

Sir. Pignatelli commissioned drone photography, which he said captured images showing the pergola frame was not wood, as the architect had suggested to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2021, Mr. Pignatelli sent text messages — some polite and neighborly, some passionate and angry — to Kristina Dalio and Ray Dalio about his concerns.

In March 2022, Mr. Pignatelli's housekeeper arrived at the apartment to find a large mirror panel in pieces around the bathroom.

Mr. Pignatelli then filed suit in the New York Supreme Court. “I was trying to warn you that things were getting worse because of the construction,” he wrote to Mr. Dalio. "And I had no choice at that point to sue."


He continued: "A mirror literally exploded in my bathroom due to the structural shift and if we had been there my daughter or I would have been seriously injured or even killed."

Sir. Dalio responded in a text message that Mr. Pignatelli had offered to hire a third-party inspector to assess the structure, but that he no longer believed the neighbors could resolve the dispute on their own.

“My sincere desire was to begenerouswith you," read the text from Mr. Dalio. “Obviously what you and I think is fair isincompatibleso those in the legal system will be the judges."

Sir. Pignatelli then hired his own structural engineer, Richard Donald, who has been working in New York since 1989. He opened the walls of Mr. Pignatelli's apartment and discovered that two of the eight steel ties holding Dalios' tires were resting on wooden posts in Mr. Pignatelli's apartment.


Mr. Pignatelli's attorney called 311 and requested a city inspection. According to Department of Buildings records, an inspector wrote on May 26, 2022: "Work does not follow plans. Plans do not comply with code." Most of the work had by then been completed, but the inspector issued an immediate stop order. A spokesman declined to comment on the inspector's specific concerns. The municipality also issued a notice of intent to revoke permits.

To solve the problem, the Dalios and their planning team must work with the city to address its concerns. "It is the owner's responsibility to come up with this remediation plan and submit the plan to the DOB for our review," said a Department of Buildings spokesperson.

Earlier this month, a city inspector stopped by Dalio's apartment and found no one home and no signs that the stop-work order was being violated, according to a report.

Almost three years after the project began, Mr. Pignatelli's legal battle continues. This month, he sued his insurance company, which rejected a claim for the broken bathroom mirror, saying it believed the mirror broke as a result of "overheating" caused by the skylight," and not the Dalio build, according to complaint by Mr. Pignatelli. .

Back at the West Broadway Arches, Kristina and Paul Dalio moved out of Apartment 6G, and Ray Dalio's youngest son, Mark Dalio, moved in with his then-girlfriend Maxine Petry. (They got engaged on a submarine and married last summer on the Spanish island of Majorca in a multi-day extravaganza.)

For now, Mr. Pignatelli spends most of his time in Los Angeles and Milan, worried that his SoHo apartment is not safe. When he has to work in New York, he stays at Casa Cipriani, a private club. "They go out of their way to make me feel like I'm in a position," she said. "but nothing can surpass my case."


Rob Copeland contributed reporting.

Audio production by Sarah Diamond.

Katie Rosman is a reporter for the Metro desk, contributing stories and profiles on the people, events and dynamics of New York City and its suburbs. @katierosman

A version of this article appears on tap, Unity


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