MANHATTAN (CN) – Eli Zabar, an heir to one of the royal families of New York City delicatessens, claims in court that his Upper East Side landlord is ousting tenants through a pattern of harassment and neglect.
One of three sons of Louis and Lillian Zabar, immigrants from the Ukraine who started the specialty-food shop on Broadway and West 80th Street that made their surname iconic, Eli Zabar has been hawking overstuffed sandwiches across town since 1973.
Today that cafe E.A.T. is now the last tenant at 1064 Madison Avenue.
Represented by attorneys at the firm Rosenberg & Estis, Zabar says in a Feb. 6 complaint that his landlords are on a mission to have him evicted.
Just four years after they bought the building for $26 million, B&J 609 LLC and WB 1064 Madison LLC want to clear out all the tenants now in the hopes of selling it or developing it “for a substantial profit,” the complaint states.
Noting that his lease is not up until 2022, with an option to extend until 2027, Zabar wants an injunction from the Manhattan Supreme Court.
Zabar’s landlords are owned by the Goldberg Group. Accusing them of trying to “bully” him out, Zabar says they have allowed the building to fall into disrepair, threatened litigation, and staged several unauthorized and unannounced entries into the premies.
The tactics, which also include falsely asserting the premises is larger than it is to jack up rent, are a breach of New York City housing anti-harassment codes, according to the the 20-page complaint.
“In stark contrast to the prior owners, [the landlord] refuses to communicate reasonably with Zabar and instead is attempting to throw Zabar’s out of its space without so much as a telephone call,” the complaint states.
The landlord also made several unannounced visits to the premises, including a visit last month by the landlord’s architect, nonparty Haffey Architecture & Engineering, to inspect the premises, Zabar says.
“The sole purpose of Haffey’s trespass was to create a bogus report to be used as the basis for a notice to cure to be served upon Zabar in furtherance of landlord’s lan to harass Zabar into vacating the building,” the complaint states.
During other unauthorized visits, Zabar says the building superintendent questioned his employees in a “menacing and harassing manner.”
The landlord also threatened litigation based on several citations, including Zabar’s use of the third floor as office space, a low-temperature chimney that does not meet New York City code, and no emergency egress ladder from the second floor roof, according to the complaint.
Many of those citations have been corrected, and the notice by the landlord is “riddled with untrue statements,” Zabar claims.
In addition to declaratory and injunctive relief, Zabar seeks $5 million in damages.
Rosenberg & Estis attorney Deborah Riegel has not returned an email seeking comment.
Josh Goldberg, principal of the Goldberg Group, also has not returned an email seeking comment and was not available to speak when called.
Now run by Eli’s older brothers, Saul and Stanley, the Zabar family’s flagship grocery is still in operation at the West Side location where it opened in 1934.