MANHATTAN (CN) - The entrance to Michael Jordan's steakhouse has become a haven for homeless people and construction debris thanks to the negligence of New York City's transit authority, the restaurant's owner claims in court.
Restaurant ownership group Penny Port filed the case Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court, on behalf of high-end restaurant Michael Jordan The Steak House NYC, which rents space from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the Grand Central Terminal.
Penny Port contends that the MTA has breached its lease by letting ongoing construction activity block the restaurant's front entrance and obscure its outdoor signage, making it appear closed to passersby.
The obstruction violates a clause in the lease requiring the landlord of the premises to use "reasonable efforts to perform work in a manner so as not to unreasonably interfere" with its tenant's business operations, according to the complaint.
Contending that the ongoing work has caused "a precipitous drop" in sales, Penny Port says profits have fallen 24 percent since construction began a year ago.
Further interfering with the upscale restaurant's ambiance, toxic fumes associated with the construction routinely waft into the restaurant's dining space, according to the complaint.
The lessees say homeless people often congregate outside, as well, attracted to the "obscured and protected area" that the city created along the construction area by erecting a tarp-covered chain link fence.
Conditions outside the restaurant have deteriorated "amid the chaos," and the MTA is at fault for allowing the area "to become plagued by filth, garbage and urine," according to the complaint.
One of several photographs attached to the complaint as an exhibit depicts "a partially naked homeless man" seeking shelter in an outdoor booth formerly used as a taxi stand. Another homeless man was discovered sleeping outside the entrance doors, the owners say.
Even MTA employees have contributed to the "unsightly and unsanitary" conditions, thus breaching their written obligation to keep the company's leased spaces clean, the complaint says.
Penny Port says one MTA officer "allowed his [police canine] to urinate in the former taxi stand outside the restaurant and encouraged his dog to defecate there as well," though restaurant employees asked that he take the pooch out to the street.
MTA employees have also repeatedly used the restaurant's bathrooms and tables on their breaks from work, tracking mud through its entrances, despite "repeated assurance" from the MTA brass "that it would instruct its workers to stop," according to the ccomplaint.
The lawsuit accuses the MTA of trespass, public nuisance and bad faith - saying there is no notice of when the will conclude.
In fact, they erected barriers two months before construction work even began in January 2015, effectively cutting into the restaurant's profit margin during the busy holiday season, Penny Port says.
The MTA has also subjected the restaurant to construction-related street closures without notice, and the construction of a planned skyscraper across the street from the restaurant's entrance might impede diners' access even further, according to the complaint.
Penny Port says the MTA has been unresponsive to its questions about the project - a trend that has allegedly persisted throughout the past year of construction.
The steakhouse seeks unspecified damage for the alleged breaches. It is represented by Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.
A spokesman for the MTA declined a request to comment on the allegations, citing a policy of not discussing litigation.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.