Volume 79, Number 50 | May 19 -25, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Nephew wins Gottlieb estate war

By Albert Amateau

Neil Bender, heir to the extensive Village real estate holdings of his uncle, the late William Gottlieb, with an estimated $1 billion value, turned back a bitter family challenge to his inheritance last week in the state Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court on May 17 unanimously upheld an earlier Surrogate’s Court ruling that Bender was fit to be executor of the estate that he inherited from his mother, William Gottlieb’s sister, Mollie Bender, who died in 2007.

Cheryl Dier, Mollie’s daughter and Neil’s sister, had filed objections in Surrogate’s Court challenging Neil’s fitness to be executor of the estate. Dier’s son, Michael Corbett, submitted evidence that Neil had drunk-driving convictions and had outstanding federal tax liens against him.

Neil Bender’s Surrogate’s Court response was that Dier’s objections were based on her disappointment at being excluded from Mollie’s will. The court ruled that, even if true, the evidence was not sufficient to disqualify Neil Bender from running the estate.

A spokesperson for Neil Bender, Lin-Hua Wu, said the Appellate Court’s unanimous decision was an important victory for the Gottlieb estate.

“The court affirmed a 2008 decision of the New York County Surrogate’s Court that appointed Irving [Mollie Bender’s husband] and Neil Bender as fiduciaries of the Gottlieb estate,” Wu said. “The Benders are gratified that the wishes of Mollie, and thereby William Gottlieb, have been recognized.”

Dier, who represented herself in the case, could still continue her challenge to her mother’s will, but chances for success in such estate cases are low. She could not be reached for comment.

William Gottlieb was renowned for amassing more than 100 properties, mostly in the West Village, the Meatpacking District and the Lower East Side, and for not selling, improving or even maintaining them. The Northern Dispensary, an early-19th-century building on Waverly Place in the middle of the Greenwich Village Historic District, and the Keller Hotel, another 19th-century building on Barrow and West Sts., are among the estate holdings.

Real estate sources last week suggested that Neil’s affirmation as the Gottlieb estate executor would allow him to sell off properties in order to pay inheritance taxes.

But Neil Bender declined to answer The Villager’s questions about his plans for the properties, many of them occupied by longtime residential and commercial tenants.

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