Manhattan borough president calls for seizure of Russian oligarchs’ NYC properties

February 28, 2022

220 Central Park South as seen in May 2020. Photo by Jim.henderson (cropped) via Wikimedia Commons.

High-profile sales deals with wealthy Russian buyers have made headlines–Dmitry Rybolovlev’s $88 million condo buy at 15 Central Park West, for example–and Manhattan’s trophy condos have been seen as a safe investment for Russian oligarchs. But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been calls to seize those properties, The Real Deal reports.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said in a Friday morning tweet: “For years Manhattan has been one of the most popular safe harbors for Russian oligarchs to park their cash, especially via ultra-high-end apartments. It’s time to start seizing their properties. #SupportUkraine.”

Sanctions against Russia that President Joe Biden announced Thursday in response to the country’s aggression in Ukraine could have an effect on New York City’s luxury real estate holdings. Though, as 6sqft has previously reported, wealthy property deals are often difficult to trace, the sanctions could make it significantly more difficult for Russian citizens to invest in NYC real estate.

The sanctions block four major banks, including VTB–Russia’s second-largest bank–from accessing their US assets, which targets over $1 trillion in assets from Russia, Crain’s reports. Though the government is not restricting Swift transactions between international banks, Biden said the sanctions “will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, Euros, pounds and yen to be part of the global economy,” calling them “profound.”

The Russian government is also blocked from being able to receive money from U.S. or European investors. Russia’s biggest state-owned businesses with assets of over $1.4 trillion have received the same restrictions.

Russian real estate activity is thought to have declined following 2014 sanctions resulting from that country’s seizure of Crimea. For example, Russia was not among the top five buyers in the National Association of Realtors’ 2021 international transactions report.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order Sunday that directs all New York State agencies to review and divest public funds from Russia following that nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia has chosen to attack democracy and we will stand with Ukraine as we condemn these atrocities,” Hochul said in a statement. “Our state will not permit its own investment activity, whether directly or indirectly, to aid Russia as it commits these human rights violations.”

New York State is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the United States. The state, in continued engagement with the Biden administration, is ready to support and welcome refugees of the war being waged in their nation.

Hochul said, “they are our family and an attack on them is an attack on us all. We will make our statements and values known and show solidarity with Ukraine as we rebuke this assault on democracy.”


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