Dunne family plans $22m New York project

Wife and son of developer plan to spend $13m on building

A US company owned by the wife and son of bankrupt property developer Sean Dunne plans to spend up to $13 million (€9 million) constructing a new building in New York City’s fashionable SoHo district.

TJD21, which Mr Dunne has said is owned by his wife Gayle Killilea Dunne (38) and son John (32) has submitted plans to build four apartments and shop space in a new five-storey building on Grand Street.

The firm spent $4.95 million acquiring the vacant site last year. A feasibility study it commissioned estimated that the building would cost a further $13 million to construct, according to records filed by the company with New York City’s board of standard and appeals, which monitors land use.

Property consultants JS Freeman Associates estimated that the firm could make a profit of $3.4 million from the $22 million project in one of the most sought-after residential areas in lower Manhattan.


TJD21 has asked the planning authorities to vary zoning on the site to permit the project to proceed. A public hearing on the project has been scheduled for March 25th at the department of city planning.

The firm has committed to restore to the new building a 128-year-old “neo-Grec style” cast-iron façade removed from a protected building on the site that was demolished in 2009. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved the Dunnes’ plans after rejecting their initial plans for a higher building in what is a historic district of the city.

Filed for bankruptcy
Sean Dunne (59) filed for bankruptcy in the US last year with debts of €700 million, including €250 million due to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), the publicly owned body that took over his property debts from Irish Nationwide Building Society, Bank of Ireland and AIB.

Nama is seeking to block his discharge from bankruptcy and stop him walking away from his debts, claiming that he defrauded creditors by transferring assets to his wife and that her companies are carrying on a property business with funds fraudulently transferred from him.

He has said he agreed to transfer €100 million, about a fifth of his net worth, to his wife in 2005 to make her financially independent. In return he received “love and affection, and children”, he said.

Mr Dunne, who moved to the US in 2010, claims to be working as an employee of his wife’s companies. He told creditors at a meeting in December that he was involved in negotiations to buy the SoHo site.

The developer, who has been declared bankrupt in Ireland, is scheduled to face questions from creditors and the US trustee overseeing his bankruptcy at a resumed hearing in New Haven, Connecticut, today.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent