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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A Tree Grows in My Brownstone, Tomeis Say

(CN) - A 60-foot tree in the Greenwich Village has led the parents of actress Marisa Tomei to sue a company owned by Sean Lennon, son to the late Beatles star.

Gary and Addie Tomei filed the lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Feb. 2 against 153 West 13th St. LLC.

The company is owned by singer-songwriter Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, according to an article by the New York Daily News.

The Tomeis say Lennon's 60-foot-high ailanthus tree is wrecking the foundation of their neighboring home.

"He refuses to do anything," Gary Tomei told the Daily News. "He's owned it for six years and neglected it."

In addition to the foundation damage, the Tomeis claim that the tree has displaced the railing leading to the front stoop of their home.

The lawsuit states that the tree is 24 inches in diameter and is 50 to 60 feet tall, "with an estimated age of 30-50 years that upon information and belief, is diseased and partially hollow."

The Tomeis are suing Lennon for trespass, injunctive relief, and violation of the New York Real Property Action and Proceedings Law. They seek removal of the tree, restoration of their home and $10 million.

The Daily News also reported that the pipes in Lennon's home burst earlier this year, forcing the Tomeis to move in with their Oscar award-winning daughter while the damage was repaired.

Marisa Tomei won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1992 comedy "My Cousin Vinny."

She also was nominated for the same award for "In the Bedroom" (2001) and "The Wrestler" (2008).

The Tomeis are represented by Gerard A. Walters of Walters & Walters.

The ailanthus tree, an invasive species from China, "crowds out native species; damages pavement and building foundation in urban areas," the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

Its flowers, stems and leaves have an odor that can be "likened to cat urine or rotting peanuts or cashews," according to a page for the National Park Service .

Known as both the Tree of Heaven and the "stink tree," writer Betty Smith summed up the ailanthus most famously in her book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

"It is the only tree that grows out of cement," Smith wrote in her 1943 novel . "It grows lushly ... survives without sun, water and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it."

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