The deadline for Sushi Samba 7 to replace its rooftop tent with an enclosed second story passed two-and-a-half months ago.
Sushi Samba rooftop limbo goes on, and on, and on
By Johanna Petersson
At three years and counting, the seemingly never-ending quest of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make the Brazilian/Japanese restaurant Sushi Samba 7 at 87 Seventh Ave. S. take down its illegal rooftop tent structure continues.
Originally, the swanky low-calorie restaurant received permission for a trellis, but instead built an unapproved tentlike structure with plastic sheeting and metal arches on its rooftop. When L.P.C. took Sushi Samba to court, Civil Court Judge Faviola Soto in September 2003 ruled in favor of L.P.C., that the tent should be taken down. But Judge Soto refused to order an injunction barring the rooftops use and L.P.C.s request to fine Sushi Samba.
According to Marc Silberman, general council at L.P.C., they agreed on Sept. 7, 2004, to Sushi Sambas building a fully enclosed second story on the one-story building at any time before March 2005. To date, however, nothing has been built, nor has the tentlike structure been removed, and once again Sushi Samba will be hauled into court.
Virginia Waters, assistant corporation counsel at New York Citys Department of Law, has prepared her third motion asking for the removal of the tent structures, but she has little hope that this will be successful. It is the most frustrating case that I have had in my 30-year career working here, said Waters. The structure has been up for four years, and for two and half of those its been considered illegal. Sushi Samba now claims their landlord is refusing them permit to build a second story and that the restaurant is included in their landlords bankruptcy proceedings, which stays any lawsuits pertaining to the landlord. We, on the other hand, have asked for the stay to be lifted, for fines and for an injunction removing the tents. Now, it is really up to the judge.
According to L.P.C.s Silberman, they are still seeking the maximum penalty $5,000 a day for each day the tents have been in place. The only way to curb this kind of behavior is by having significant penalties and having these enforced, said Silberman.
Since the structure has been in use more than four years, the fines would total $6 million.
Sushi Sambas facilities manager, Leah Mendelsohn, said they would not comment because the case is in litigation.
Alex Varveris, the landlord, admits that he is refusing to approve the second-story construction until Sushi Samba agrees to renegotiate its existing lease, which does not include provisions for a second story. But he denies the current inertia has anything to do with the bankruptcy.
You know, I just received a book from the city of New York with their violations, said Varveris. Yes, it is true that I am refusing to sign. These guys want to have their cake and eat it, too. If they want a second story and an extension on their lease they have to pay for it.
Gabrielle Jones, a residential tenant in an adjacent building, 16 Barrow St., also owned by Varveris, long ago lost patience with the delay in rectifying the roof situation. Her frustration with the illegal rooftop is reaching a boiling point, as temperatures are rising and the summer season hits the rooftop. The Landmark Preservation Commission stands toothless and this situation is horrible, its unbearable, said Jones, who with her mother, Angela Boone, the Villages Republican district leader, co-owns Pennyfeathers restaurant on the same block. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, you see people crammed up against the railings, Jones said. You should come and see for yourself what it is like with 150 people outside your window.
Jones welcomes an enclosed area. An enclosed area would be fabulous, she said, but personally I believe they have an illegal structure and are making a fortune. They are only permitted to have 50 people on the rooftop, yet they cram in more than 150 people up there. They just find new excuses and I am just not sure it is ever going to happen.