Today the Observer peers into the murky waters of the Gottlieb estate to find out why so many of the late William Gottlieb’s properties (the former Day-O, for instance, or, more recently, Ghenet) are lying fallow, with still more cadavers piling up (patrons are protesting the impending eviction of Baby Buddha). The article fails to shed much light on the mystery man who currently controls the estate, Gottlieb’s cousin Neil Bender — certain tenants say he’s unresponsive at best, others such as Keith McNally tellingly don’t comment, and his cousin Michael Corbett (who is trying to wrestle control of the estate away from Bender in a case that will be decided soon) says he’s pretty much an irresponsible drunk. One of Bender’s doctors has concurred in court papers.
In the late 1990s, Mr. Bender began to consult with an osteopath for what his nephew described as back pain. In an affidavit filed as part of the case, the osteopath, Dr. Bissoon, who said he was owed money by Mr. Bender, described his former patient’s bizarre behavior: “Many times Mr. Bender would ask if he could stay in the office after his appointments to rest,” reads the affidavit. “He would sleep three to four hours in the office and we’d have to eventually wake him up because we needed the room for other patients. In my professional opinion, Mr. Bender was either under the influence of alcohol or narcotics; he appeared completely out of it and dysfunctional in the middle of the day during each and every visit.”
In turn, Bender calls the allegations “little more than a scurrilous attack on the Benders’ conduct and good character.” Either way, the question remains — will Bender keep giving West Village residents reason to think that “it’s like they’re trying to turn the neighborhood into a slum” (per one), or will he continue to make modest steps towards developing the properties, such as with Shake Shack Nolita?