Landlord Of Village Hangout Of Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac Sued For Leaks, Mold
The owners of the revived Le Figaro Café — a Greenwich Village staple once frequented by Allan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan — are suing their landlord, claiming the building had been allowed to fall into such disrepair that its grand reopening was delayed by almost a year.
Mario Skaric and Florence Zabokritsky, co-owners of Figaro Café at 184 Bleecker St., filed suit Wednesday against the owner of the building — an affiliate of New York real estate investment firm Targo Capital Partners, run by CEO David Gleitman — claiming its refusal to conduct repairs amounts to a "constructive eviction."
Targo bought the five-story, landmarked building for $14.5M in August, backed by a nearly $9M loan from Santander Bank, in a deal Figaro Café's owners say the previous landlord didn't inform them of.
The café owners allege that Targo has refused to perform needed repairs, like fixing a leaking roof that has caused mold throughout the building, "to harass and intimidate Plaintiff to abandon the Leases and bring in a new tenant at increased rent to cover the mortgage payments to the Lender."
Figaro Café reopened in May last year, 14 years after the building's previous owner, Valley Stream, decided to cease operating the restaurant. The original Le Figaro Café opened in 1957, and while it closed in 2008, the building was given landmark status in 2021, according to city property records.
The café is a new venture for Skaric, a restaurateur and former model who has previously worked in senior positions at Baby Brasa’s Greenwich Village location and as general manager at The Grill at the Standard Highline.
“When we dove into researching the significance of the space, we knew we wanted to be a part of the long and storied history of Figaro,” Skaric told Forbes last year. “We would pay proper homage to it and give it a new life as a gathering space for modern crowds.”
But after Skaric and Zabokritsky began trying to renovate the café, they unearthed a series of problems from leaking pipes and mold to an interior retaining wall that was "buckling dangerously," according to the lawsuit. The issues resulted in the opening date being pushed back by nine months, according to the suit.
The damage to the property came from Valley Stream neglecting to carry out necessary maintenance during the period the café was closed, instead surviving off revenues collected from the 14 residential units above Le Figaro that command rents of up to $9K per unit, the suit claims.
Under the lease agreement, Figaro LLC couldn't repair the building and depended on Valley Stream to carry out renovations. But once repairs commenced, after months of delays caused by construction permit issues, Figaro LLC’s contractors had to stop almost immediately after discovering that the interior wall was buckling and placing the building in danger of “immediate collapse.”
Valley Stream hired a new contractor and stopped construction, adding five months of delays to the process, the lawsuit claims. The delays ate into the six-month rent abatement period, pushing the final opening date to May 2022 — nine months later than planned, and 18 months into the lease.
When the café opened, it did so without gas or a liquor license, the owners claim, and it still can't operate at full capacity because of the building's condition. Leaks in the building have not yet been fixed, the suit says, resulting in damage to the café’s new flooring.
The building's new landlord also failed to act in response to Department of Buildings violations notices regarding damage to the sidewalk outside the property and cracks in the building’s facade, the suit claims.
Between the delays, the suit alleges that Skaric and Zabokritsky face a loss of approximately $2M. The failures to perform basic maintenance and repairs, delays in construction and the landlord’s noncompliance with DOB requirements amount to constructive eviction, the suit alleges.
“As a result of Defendant’s failures in this regard, reimbursement of rent already paid, abatement in the full amount of rent and any additional rent, and compensation for loss of good will all in an amount to be determined at trial, is proper,” lawyers for Le Figaro Café wrote.