The Real Deal New York

Bleecker Street theater sues landlord for $12M

By Adam Pincus | August 09, 2011 06:23PM

Former Theaters at 45 Bleecker Street and theater owner Louis Salamone 

[Updated at 8.30 a.m.] The curtain opened this week on act three of a behind-the-scenes drama involving a former electrical cord manufacturing building in Noho that for three years had been home to the theatrical venue known as Theaters at 45 Bleecker Street.

The first act was a suit brought in 2008 by landlord Rogers Investments NV against theater tenant Tewksbury Management Group in Landlord And Tenant Court in Manhattan after the tenant fell behind in rent payments. That resulted in an eviction carried out Oct. 13 of last year, which Tewksbury claimed was illegitimate. City marshals changed the locks and turned over possession of the approximately 12,000 first-floor and basement space in the six-story property to the landlord that day.

Three and a half months later, a theater production company called When Harry Met Linda, which had a license agreement with Tewksbury to produce plays in the space and which was presenting plays such as one about old pornography called “Deep Throat Sex Scandal” at the time of the eviction, sued the landlord in New York State Supreme Court for wrongful eviction. That case was settled last Thursday, when a judge sided with the landlord, and threw out the complaint.

Then yesterday, in the third act of the drama, Tewksbury took center stage, and sued the landlord in New York State Supreme Court, seeking $12.575 million in damages, lost profits and other expenses as well as an order from the court restoring it to the space.

Tewksbury has been without a home since last October, although is now in negotiations to take a space at 225 East Houston Street, theater owner Louis Salamone, said.

He filed the lawsuit “to recoup money that [the landlord] basically stole from us, to pay back our debtors and our investors from this money,” Salamone said.

The theater company is claiming when it entered into the lease in March 2007, the landlord incorrectly said there were no building code violations, and that there was a certificate of occupancy for the building for a theater use, among other allegations. The suit claims neither was true. The DOB shows the building does not have a current certificate of occupancy for assembly. The Fringe Festival, from Aug. 12 to Aug. 28, is using the building as one of its locations. The Department of Buildings Issued A Temporary Place of assembly permit July 21 allowing the theater use, documents provided by Rogers Investments NV show.

The Fringe Festival and the DOB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“[The landlord] breached the lease,” the complaint says. In addition, it alleges that Rogers Investments, because it is not registered to do business in the state, in fact had no standing to seek the eviction.

“[Except] for the summary proceeding and warrant of eviction, plaintiff’s lease with defendant would still be in force and effect,” the complaint says.

Terrence Oved, a partner with law firm Oved & Oved, which represents Rogers Investments, said the new filing does not hold up to scrutiny.

“We have reviewed the complaint and find their allegations to be meritless. We will continue to vigorously defend our client in this action as we have done in the past,” he said.

Oved said Tewksbury was removed from the space last year for “failing to adhere to [its] obligation under the stipulation [in the landlord and tenant case]. They were lawfully evicted.”

The 85-year-old retiree Fred Rogers, speaking from his home in Nevada, said, “The only thing I can tell you is the city is regulating everything so much it can be a hassle to own property.”

His said his father bought the building in 1945, which they used for manufacturing electrical wire and extension cords for many years.

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