From the Daily News:
A Queens mom-to-be among the early tenants at a fledgling Glendale mall is mulling bankruptcy after being ordered to pay more than $300,000 to the prominent family that founded the Shops at Atlas Park.
Jennifer Padilla's two failed stores and dreary personal finances reinforce growing speculation that the Cooper Ave. center, nearing a foreclosure sale, isn't viable for small businesses - if at all.
Padilla's troubles stem from a $300,000 credit line that she secured in April 2008 with a guarantee by the clan of then-MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger, whose son Damon ran Atlas Park.
Padilla soon used the funds to start an upscale women's clothing store that would accompany the men's apparel shop, M12/Thirty One, that she opened at Atlas Park in November 2007.
Padilla opened the women's shop, Femme1231, in June 2008. But sales sagged after the mall fell into foreclosure in early 2009, and she stopped paying the bank.
When Valley National officials couldn't reach Padilla to collect, the Hemmerdingers covered her entire debt of $303,062 - the value of the loan plus interest - in September.
Hemmerdinger won a Christmas Eve judgment for that sum in Queens Supreme Court, renewing Padilla's bankruptcy fears.
The four-page decision by Judge Orin Kitzes capped a messy legal war that included whether the Hemmerdingers improperly intervened in the loan process.
Padilla's papers said that Damon Hemmerdinger, after coaching her how to obtain the loan, seemed angry when she was initially rejected in March 2008 by Valley National's Robert Minson. Hemmerdinger promised to follow up with the bank and told Padilla another person would contact her about the loan.
Just weeks after Minson turned down Padilla, James Zhou, an assistant vice president at a Valley National Bank subsidiary, e-mailed her to renew loan talks.
She was soon approved.
Padilla said Dale Hemmerdinger's clout paved the way for approval, but his son denied it.
"The fact that my father is board member at the bank in question means nothing," Damon Hemmerdinger insisted in a signed affidavit.