EAST VILLAGE — When Lorcon Otway learned in 2007 that his mother planned to sell the storied St. Mark’s Place property where he grew up and still lived, he objected, claiming he and his wife would be left homeless.
He also told his mother that if the streets didn’t kill him, then he would commit suicide.
Then Otway, 60, ratcheted up his threats, claiming that the prospective sale would have an even direr consequence — he’d become a journalist.
He told his mother he’d go to Afghanistan as a war correspondent and she would have to take out a life insurance policy to take care of his wife if his foray into one of the most dangerous parts of the world proved fatal.
Otway’s brother claimed last week that he resorted to these threats and “high-pressure tactics” in order to persuade their ailing mother to drop plans in her will to sell the East Village property — a onetime speakeasy and mobster hangout — when she died.
In court papers filed Dec. 14, the brother, Thomas Otway, also accuses his sibling of coercing their mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, into transferring the deed to the property to him in 2010.
“This transaction was not intended to benefit or otherwise made in [Florence’s] best interest, but rather, was undertaken for the self-serving profit and financial gain of [Lorcan] to [Florence’s] corresponding detriment, damage and harm,” Thomas said in the filing in Manhattan Surrogate's Court.
His legal filing asks a judge to nullify the deed transfer, claiming his mother wasn’t mentally competent at the time of the conveyance.
“The only thing we know with certainty is that [Lorcan Otway] acquired [Florence’s] interest in the property long after admitting that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and constantly in a state of confusion,” Thomas’ lawyer, Robert Rosh, said in a court filing.
Thomas, a math professor at Yeshiva University who lives in Croton-on-the-Hudson, N.Y., claims that through a trust, he and his brother were supposed to own an equal share in the two-building property at 78-80 St. Mark’s Place.
He took legal action last week, the filing says, after years of negotiations between him and his brother about the property didn’t lead to any tangible results.
Earlier this year, the two agreed to have Lorcan buy Thomas’ interest in the property through a mortgage, according to Rosh's filing. But Rosh said that he and his client have not seen evidence that Lorcan has tried to obtain the mortgage.
The contested property holds a unique and quirky history in the East Village.
The Otway family has owned the two five-story buildings for a half-century since Florence and her husband, Howard, purchased them in 1965.
Howard, an actor and writer, turned part of property into Theater 80 St. Marks, a popular movie house that showed revival films.
The two buildings were constructed around 1920. At one time, 80 St. Mark’s Place was owned by low-level gangster Walter Scheib and was used as an illegal gin joint with secret tunnels.
Since Lorcan took over management of the property, he has opened a 160-seat theater, a speakeasy-inspired tavern and the Museum of the American Gangster. Seizing on 80 St. Mark’s provenance, the museum tells the tale of Al Capone and other Prohibition Era mobsters.
The buildings also have residential apartment and office units. Thomas claims that Lorcan and his wife have lived rent free in one or more of the residential units in the property since 1994.
Lorcan told DNAinfo New York that his family has turned the property into a neighborhood institution, and he is proud of his accomplishments there.
A former lawyer and harpist, he said he also worked as a journalist in the past but denied coercing his mother into deeding him the property.
“All the allegations are false, misleading and will be addressed in a court of law,” he said.
But Thomas said in the filing that his brother’s management has been detrimental to the property.
He claims Lorcan is responsible for an $800,000 loan on the property that only enriched him.
In 2008 Lorcan also bungled a lease renewal with its biggest tenant, Pearl Theatre Company, according to Thomas’ filing.
Pearl walked away from the space after Lorcan mishandled negotiations, according to the filing. Thomas claims Lorcan then leased the space to himself and opened his own venue, Theatre 80 St Marks.
Thomas declined to comment for this story.