Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Crying Game: 9 North Moore vs Zach Vella (and Saif Sumaida)

"nothing is what it seems to be."  never play the crying game with a blogger.

talk about constantly shifting identities - the personality-types involved in multimillion dollar deals are the most bizarre in nyc.

admittedly, i'm one of the 99%. don't know lots of those people. except zach vella. 

last summer, zach's a friendly new neighbor i meet on the sidewalk. here's the email he sent me.

From: Zach Vella
Date: June 8, 2012 7:57:44 PM EDT
To: "'ameenameer@gmail.com'"

Good meeting you. If you are interested in speaking about your ground floor space please let me know.


Zach Vella
212 686 2500

after sandy, after his development floods my apartment, he's the invisible man. not returning my phone calls, emails, not even the notes i leave with his doorman when i see him encased in black spandex, heading off for a run.

a freezing winter morning, after i write a blogpost about what a nightmare my life is - he's bristling mad that i had dared to write about him.  i figure, he's on the million dollar listing on bravo, he isn't publicity-shy. (on the street, he keeps murmuring about a woman whose wall he put a nail through. he offered to repair the wall but she sued him for all this money and, of course, she lost everything. he looks at me pointedly as he says this, though i miss the implication.)

a month later, i get a phone call, "hey, it's zach!" like we are best friends and i've been expecting his call all day. "are you still interested in renting your place? i just wanted to let you know i spoke to the partners and we are serious."

april 2 (day AFTER april fool's day, when i should have been wiser), zach came to the storefront to talk about how bad he felt about everything that happened. he was so sorry, he really just wanted to help me. the chain of command being what it was, he couldn't pay me himself, but he would be willing to give me a personal loan, out of his own pocket, until the insurance paid for the repairs. (i had actually emailed him the claim denials of all three insurance companies already.)

then, he said he had an idea that would be great for both of us. the development company would rent the entire space for a year, do a renovation that would repair all the apartment damage and pay me upfront for the stuff i lost. then they could use my space as a sales office and model apartment for their new development.

i am blown away. a perfect solution. "that is so kind of you, i would happy to do that," i said. "just so i can figure out my kids and my adjust my schedule - what's your time frame for that?"

zach said, "a month, a month-and-a-half at most."

i changed my mind about him. he was trying to do his best in a difficult situation.

a couple of artists planned a show of paintings and sculptures in the storefront in may. we'd been discussing it since last year. i cancelled the show.

out of courtesy, i didn't write any more blogposts because i knew it made him uncomfortable. i would wait til it was resolved and write something kind. (though the one about zach got over 1500 hits).

our emails:
From: Ameena Meer [mailto:ameenameer@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 08:20 PM
To: Zach Vella
Subject: thank you

it was great talking to you tonight.

i really appreciate your taking the time to address the issue.

i'm looking at the options - can you give me an idea of what you think the rent would be for a space like this?

thanks again,

On Apr 3, 2013, at 8:51 AM, Zach Vella wrote:

I will ask our broker but I think you should ask a couple yourself so we you are comfortable with the number

april 17: i put my apartment on the market to give him a number to work with.

ok weird.

may: he finally contacted my broker. he was traveling in africa. obviously doing good works in the developing world, he just wanted to be sure i wasn't going to write anything about him. in the meantime, no further offer of the loan either.

june 6, i'm fed up. nice and patient isn't working. send him a text saying that if he doesn't want me to write about his presence in my life, he needs to get this over with. (don't want to talk because obviously he's only good for what he puts in writing - plus my life is insane.)

he accuses me of extortion.

at this point, i don't care what he thinks. also, i cannot remove my blog as it provides important information for people with cancer.

he says: send me the damages.

for the 10th time, i send him the list - it consists of the destroyed stuff, the plumbing and electrical repairs, and last year's bills for the mold clean-up (subtracting the cost of the upstairs) and the re-build. being a good neighbor, i don't ask him for relocation costs while the work is done.

On Jun 10, 2013, at 11:17 AM, "Ameena Meer" wrote:

hi zach -

as per our conversation on saturday, here is the cost of the repairs.

as we spoke at the beginning of april, the flood happened in november of last year, i feel i've been quite patient.

i would appreciate some response within 24 hours.

i am forwarding you the same email my real estate sent you last week.

thank you,

On Jun 10, 2013, at 12:23 PM, Zach Vella wrote:


24 hours x 4, no response.  i text again.

bizarrely, he forwards a release. it holds him and his company blameless for everything and i can never write about him or them again. the place for the number is left blank.

this morning, he calls the broker to tell him that his own basement flooded, it was cheap and easy to have it all repaired - my costs are way too high. zach offers me "a loan" for $14,000 - a little over a quarter of the cost of the damages. (in return, i have to delete my blog - which is usually used as an clearing house for alternative cancer information).

i should add that given this drama - my second major flood in two years - means that no insurance carrier will give me coverage for the next three years.

oh, one of the brokers on the million dollar listing is being investigated by the f.b.i. and had been photoshopping new kitchens and floors into his apartment listings.

oh so that's how it works.

want a writer to stop writing? you have to take off the costume.

UPDATE: for everyone who's asking. i decided to stop trying to mr. vella and his business to court. it wasn't worth the time, attention or the money. i sold my place and moved away from rat-infested tribeca. now it's his karma to live with. i wish him all the best.


  1. Awesome Ameena! This seems to be the only way to get is attention. Thought about filing suit? You seem to have enough admittance on his part to the problem. Including offers to pay. Did he put 'without prejudice' on any of the correspondence or offers? If he did you may not be able to use those items in a potential suit, but the rest, for sure. Also I'm sure that suing someone like this guy with deep pockets would be a tantalizing prospect for a lawyer in NYC that could do it on contingency! xoxox Cousin Ron in Canada

  2. Hey what has been going on since this post?

  3. Nothing is going on. I ran into one of the contractors who told me that the developer has a bad reputation. He's known for doing stuff like this. I asked him to intervene on my behalf. He said he would do what he could. Then I saw my old friend on the street, he threatened to call his lawyer if I ever tried to speak to him again. Then he harangued me for 5 minutes for being a "really bad, really terrible person" and destroying his trust in me. In other words, nothing.

  4. Omg, and to think I had this guy on my to do list. What a douche bag.

  5. So why exactly haven't you looked into a lawsuit? Plenty of great lawyers work on contingency.

    The irony is that it would have cost him change to take care of you and get you out of his life/way.

  6. Wow. Zach Vella seems to be a terrible person. I randomly decided to google him after seeing him on Million Dollar Listings. Never expected to find this.

    I hope everything worked out Ameena!

  7. Hi Ameena just google this Vella character on Google randomly (am watching Million Dollar Listing episode he is in right now here in Ireland!), Outrageous behaviour on his part. Mean Spirited at best & very cruel to a vulnerable person in recovery from Cancer at worst. Somebody described him as a Douchebag. I think Douchecanoe would be more accurate! Hope this is somehow resolved to you & your family's satisfaction. Take Care!

  8. Take him to court. Stop talking and take action. Then he will settle.

  9. What a creep. He should grow a conscience.

  10. Hi Ameena, I've read your blog here and oh my what an ordeal. But just to point out a different perspective. Most of the time high net worth and influential people, such as Zach Vella, are used to people trying to squeeze every dime out of them and are under extreme pressures within their professional and private lives. I'm not making excuses for him, but I definitely know the type.
    It's clear that you made every attempt to get the issue resolved, but you can only be patient, civil, and meek for so long. Sometimes you have to make a stand. They're a ton of legal counsel out there to deal with situations like this that work pro bono. Even the District Attorney's Office will speak with you and guide you in the right direction for free. I'm the last person that believes in suing others; however, sometimes it comes to that regrettable fact. I hope this helps.

  11. Ok.... let me see if I understand all of this. This Mr. Vella, a real estate developer, is having construction done to either your building or the one next door?
    The construction crew does something that causes your apartment to flood. You contacted everyone, i.e. construction company and Mr. Vella to get it seen about. Mr. Vella then claims he is going to "rent" your apartment remodel it then let you move back in it??? But none of this happens???
    So, if I have understood this dilemma correctly I'll give you my advice on this situation. I come from very long background in construction and real estate. Although I'm not versed in New York state nor city law and codes I will say this. I do not see that Mr. Zach Vella is in the wrong here. As a developer he contracts construction crews, engineers, and architects to build his projects that he then sells off, probably with the aid of real estate agents.
    All developers have to use licensed and bonded construction crews and they sign very lengthy agreements when a development is being built. So in this matter the fault is on the construction crew. It should have been very easy to call your city inspectors office to come out to investigate. And most of the time the inspector will shutdown the construction and place hefty fines on the company until the issue is resolved. There should have been no need of lawyers and/ or drama. They're some very corrupt companies out there but when dealing with large city departments they have a system of checks and balances that usually clean up the corruption. Just ask Mr. Vella what all he has to do just to get a "simple" building permit. The construction company did the work, they caused the flood directly or indirectly. And FYI, Mr. Vella can sue you for defamation if it can be articulated that your grievance with him caused him any loss of income and/or damaged his image/ reputation which in turn caused a financial loss. So the way I have liked to do business whether professional and personal is to "kill them kindness". Remember, "kindness" not "weakness".
    And I'm not sure about that whole "rent" situation. Where would you live while he remodeled and rented your space? I am not in your shoes but this whole situation could have been fixed by making a few phones to the appropriate city of New York offices instead of all of this blogging and texting that you've been involved with. I'm not trying to get you down and I know recouping from cancer is daunting, but this should have been resolved within 2 months time tops.Good luck to you, Cheers.