Village restaurateur sues NYU for $7M

MacDougal Street owner says university construction cost him business, damaged property

The owner of two MacDougal Street restaurants filed a lawsuit yesterday in New York State Supreme Court alleging that New York University construction has brought with it blocked streets, broken buildings, slumping commerce and foul smells.

Vittorio Antonini, the developer and owner at 129-131 Macdougal Street, alleges in the complaint that NYU’s law school expansion at 139 MacDougal— a preamble to the larger, controversial “NYU 2031” plan — has interfered with his business and inflicted considerable damage to his property. Antonini owns two eateries, La Lanterna Caffe and Enoteca, and two residential rental units at his MacDougal Street property.

The Antonini suit asks for $7 million in compensation for property damage and NYU’s alleged tortious interference with business relationships. It asks for additional punitive damages in the amount of $5 million per property damage charge.

The complaint states that NYU officials assured Antonini that they would use resources at their disposal to mitigate his concerns, which included a cracked floor, doors that would no longer close, and blocked access to the property. Antonini also alleges that during construction NYU “recklessly disregarded codes, laws, rules and regulations on a regular basis,” resulting in the owner’s property being “inundated with noise, vermin, odors and other conditions.”

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His attorney, David Aronstam, declined to comment.

“We have not yet had a chance to study the complaint in detail,” an NYU spokesperson told The Real Deal. “However, we believe this suit has no merit and we will defend vigorously our actions.”

Antonini, who is developing a 20-unit condominium project at 260 North 9th Street in Williamsburg, underscored that he had tried to keep his relations with the school peaceful, and in general was not a detractor of the institution. “My sister went there, and a portion of my clientele is from the university,” he said. “But how many times do you give the benefit of the doubt to people who continually abuse the privilege?”

The NYU spokesperson said that the law school construction is unrelated to the school’s 2031 expansion plans.