EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) —- An East Village restaurant filed a $615,000 lawsuit against New York City and the Department of Transportation Thursday after its outdoor dining shed was destroyed.
The dining shed, which cost $90,000, was torn down in October, Mimi Blitz, co-owner of Pinky’s Space, located near East First Street and First Avenue, said. Blitz said it was taken down “without warning.”
“Without the revenue the outdoor dining space provided us, we’ve fallen into a financial tailspin,” Blitz wrote in an email to PIX11 News. “The DOT destroyed our outdoor structure even though it was neither abandoned nor unsafe – the only two circumstances under which officials said they would remove dining sheds.”
A DOT spokesperson disputed Blitz’ claim, noting a cease-and-desist order was issued in August for operation of a shed that didn’t adhere to city guidelines. Officials said the structure was too far from the curb, lacked reflective materials and was not ADA accessible. It also covered a manhole and was used to store non-dining components.
The DOT spokesperson said another notice was issued on Oct. 4. It gave Pinky’s Space five days to remedy the situation. The DOT sent a third notice a week later, telling the business owners the shed would be torn down, according to an agency spokesperson.
In the suit, Pinky’s Space acknowledged getting “two (2) cease and desist orders of non-compliance regarding the outdoor structure and each time, made the requested changes. However, Plaintiff was never informed that the Property was a threat of imminent harm which required complete destruction.”
Mayor Eric Adams was asked about the outdoor dining structure at Pinky’s Space after it was torn down in October. While he hadn’t heard about it at the time, he said the policy is to give notice before any dining shed is taken down unless there’s “a real imminent safety hazard.”
“Those that are abandoned or those that are dangerous, there’s a sign that’s placed on them with a warning, and then those who own them have an opportunity to repair or to dismantle,” he said at the time.
A Law Department spokesperson said they’ll review the suit, filed by Pinky’s Space’s parent company Cherry Velvet Inc.
“Outdoor dining saved more than 100,000 jobs at the height of the pandemic, and we are working with our partners in the City Council to design a permanent Open Restaurants program that has clear guidelines for restaurant owners and that all New Yorkers can be proud of,” the spokesperson said. “We’ll review the suit.”
Pinky’s Space is currently raising funds on GoFundMe. The owners wrote they invested everything they had into the restaurant. With the help of donations, Pinky’s Space was able to build a new, smaller outdoor dining space. Blitz said they’re “doing the best with the current situation.”
“We are distraught, but we are resilient,” they wrote on the GoFundMe. “We are kindly asking for your support while we take the necessary steps to move forward and make things right again.”