Howard Birnbach has known Mt. Olive Baptist Church Reverend Edward Corley since 2000, and considers himself a friend of the pastor to this day. Corley also tapped Birnbach to represent the church on its negotiations with Georgica Green Ventures (GG) for senior affordable housing on its 3.1 acres on Community Drive. Birnbach decided to leave the deal after negotiations broke down in 2018.
Birnbach also led the process of getting the contract petition through the attorney general and courts, adhering with the religious corporations state law. After the Supreme Court of Nassau County denied the deal, everything started going south during renegotiations.
“The judge made a determination and no longer wished to go in that direction,” Birnbach said. “The judge wanted to go a different way.”
While Birnbach was renegotiating the deal with GG, Corley and the church had different plans for the property.
“I wanted to resolve the matter,” Birnbach said. “I wanted to go ahead with the transaction. The developer had made several significant concessions. I thought we should go ahead with the transaction. [The Church] did not want to go to with the deal as it was standing. The last time I spoke to them, they wanted to do a lease deal where they maintained title to the property.”
According to Birnbach, GG rebuffed the proposed lease, but did increase the value of the deal and also give the church 10 percent equity in the project.
“[Pastor Corley] was approached by another developer, who emphasized the church maintaining title and leasing it for the project,” Birnbach said. “Obviously, [GG] wanted nothing to do with that, [GG] wanted title so that’s when the deal collapsed. [GG] would go no further, that’s when it was clear to me that this was a dead end. I had poured six years of my life into this thing and I never received any compensation from it whatsoever. It was clear to me that this transaction was never coming to pass because the parties wanted different things.”
As part of the deal, Birnbach was to be paid $100,000 after the deal was complete, but since the court denied the deal, he never saw a penny. After Birnbach saw no light at the end of the tunnel, he decided to leave his role.
Corley then decided to hire Reverend Monte Malik Chandler as the church’s attorney and representative in negotiations.
“The contract was absolutely unconscionable,” Chandler, who is on retainer and not being paid the $100,000 as part of the original deal, said. “It did not take into consideration the total value of the property. It did not take into consideration or give the church an equitable deal.”
Chandler is now the leading man for the church, but is facing a litigation battle with GG after they sued the church for breaking the term of the deal. The two sides will meet on Nov. 8 in the Brooklyn Appellate Division after GG appealed the Nassau County Supreme Courts ruling of dismissal.
“The developer was going to pay their attorney fees of $100,000 to a Howard Birnbach who is going to be the attorney for the church who is actually compromised in the whole thing because he was not advocating on the behalf of his actual client, instead that he was allowing the developing company to extend to extend the contract longer,” said Chandler. “Each time they did that, they were supposed to give the church $10,000 and they didn’t do it or [Birnbach] didn’t demand that they do it and the church was out $70,000 because they did seven different extensions. Pastor Corley comes to me because he’s very disgruntled with his legal advice that he’s been getting as the deal has not been moving forward.”
Chandler says that there are interested developers, but they currently waiting on the courts to make a decision on the current contract with GG.
“We had one that was a joint venture where we could get a piece of the whole entire deal so it was fairly lucrative deal,” Chandler said. “They had a offer at 4 million, I think 4.2 million. we were pretty excited about that, but then it all fell apart because they appealed the case and put a stay on there and now we can’t sell the property.”
The contract negotiated by Birnbach seems to be in doubt, even though he believes it was the best direction for the church to go in. But he still wants to see the Olive Hill project go through, whether with GG or another developer.
“It would be a shame if Rev. Corley does not see this thing come to pass because he’s the one that put it together,” Birnbach said. “I want him to be in good health and to appreciate a ribbon cutting, there is nothing that would make me feel better than that.”