EAST HARLEM, NY – The owner of an East Harlem auto repair shop is suing the shop’s new owner, saying he’s trying to force the business to make way for an apartment tower he wants build on the block.
For 15 years, Prestige Auto Repair has run a “thriving” business at the corner of Third Avenue and East 111th Street, according to the court case filed Monday by owner Yossi Mazig. With seven full-time employees, the owners invested over $700,000 in the shop, built “goodwill in the area” and established Prestige as one of “the few remaining motor vehicle repair shops in Manhattan. “, according to the lawsuit.
In November, however, the store building was bought for $9.3 million by Elie Fouerti, a promoter who also bought the four buildings adjacent to 2005-2011 Third Ave. and 207 East 110th St. for $4.1 million. Months later, Fouerti filed plans to demolish these buildings and build a 15-story apartment building.
Then, in March, Fouerti sent the car workshop a notice threatening to terminate its lease, claiming the store breached the lease by not providing proof of insurance. The store’s lawyer retaliatetelling Fouerti that the store had in fact sent its insurance policy to its previous owner, before Fouerti purchased it.
Because the store’s lease contains no “cancellation for demolition” clause, the landlord was forced to get creative in its efforts to move the business, according to the lawsuit.
“The notice is patently frivolous and further confirms your client’s intent to harass our client in an effort to drive him out of his long-term activities on the premises so that he can proceed with his plan to demolish the building and ‘erect a much larger building on the site,” attorney James Fishman wrote in the April 8 letter.
Indeed, Fouerti has filed separate plans with the Ministry of Buildings to construct a second 14-storey building on the part of the block now occupied by Prestige Auto Repair. But when reached by phone on Tuesday, Fouerti insisted he had no intention of building on the location of the auto shop, telling Patch: “Nothing is happening on This site”.
As for the trial, Fouerti declined to comment.
“He can say whatever he wants,” Fouerti said. “Let him have his own story.”
Since then, the store’s lease has not been terminated, but the owner still fears being evicted, which he says would “permanently destroy the business that is all our livelihood”. In its lawsuit, the auto shop is asking a judge to extend the time it has to correct any breaches of the lease.
Fouerti’s planned development on the Third Avenue block has already closed the former Fresh & Fair supermarket on the corner of East 110th Street, which is currently being demolished. (However, city records show that a stop work order was issued. Published for demolition last week, due to expired permits and inadequate oversight.)
The building that will replace it will be designed by Studio V Architecture, with commercial space and 91 apartments, including an undetermined number of affordable units. This component was made possible by the rezoning of East Harlem in 2017, which created tax breaks for developers who include below-market homes in their neighborhood projects.
Fouerti, in addition to his real estate projects, is also a co-founder of a lucrative home appliance company based in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, according to a Profile 2017 by Crain’s.