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September 22, 2019Cart


by Westchester County Business Journal

Contractor gets pennies on the dollar from African nation in New Rochelle mansion row

A judge has awarded a construction company $75,000 – about a nickel on the dollar for the $1.4 million it demanded – on a $3.9 million renovation of a New Rochelle mansion for the ambassador of Chad.

U.S. District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti, who presided over a five-day bench trial in June, also awarded Hilt Construction & Management Corp. more than $25,000 in interest on  Aug. 6, for a total judgment of $100,336. Briccetti dismissed a $1 million breach of contract demand by the Permanent Mission of Chad to the United Nations.

The dispute concerns the 39-room, 13,400-square-foot Davenport House, a Gothic Revival mansion built in 1859 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Republic of Chad bought the house in 2014 for then-ambassador Cherif Mahamat Zene, for $1.3 million.

Hilt, of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, specializes in renovating historical properties. Chad agreed to pay more than $2.8 million to renovate 19 bathrooms; install new windows, wiring, light fixtures, hardwood floors and porcelain floors; build a heated swimming pool, deck and circular driveway; and landscape the 1.14-acre property.

Hilt claimed it encountered unforeseen complications and obstacles, such as asbestos and mold, requirements by the city of New Rochelle to fix drainage and roof issues, and demands by Zene for extra features, including a 20th bathroom.

Hilt said the work totaled nearly $3.9 million, including more than $1 million for additional work. It accused Chad of breach of contract, in a lawsuit filed in August 2016, and demanded $1.4 million for the extra work and a portion of the original contract that remained unpaid.

Chad responded that the contract required the work to be completed in 180 days, by July 2015, when its lease in Manhattan expired. Hilt missed the deadline, the mansion was uninhabitable and 40 percent of the work was yet to be done.

By then, Chad claimed, Hilt was demanding about $792,000 for extra work.

Chad said Hilt abandoned the project and it had to hire another contractor to finish the work. The mission also claimed breach of contract and demanded $1 million.

Briccetti found that Hilt was entitled to $75,000 on its breach of contract claim.

Hilt was represented by Deborah Ann Johnson and Michael L. Shanker, of Shanker Law Group of Mineola. Chad was represented by Ryanne Guy Konan of Wappingers Falls.