Tenant Claims Newark Schools Landlord Harassed and Threatened 100 Year Old Store

The landlords are already under fire from criticism that they are not paying construction workers prevailing wage. A Department of Labor complaint has been filed by the union representing worker interests. And a close look at the lease shows that the owners will reap tens of millions from taxpayers because Newark Public Schools is choosing to lease the building rather than buying and building on its own. 

The case of the last remaining tenant on the site opens up a new dramatic front to the saga. Olshin’s Pharmacy Inc., which has been in business in Newark for 100 years, filed the case last month in Essex County Superior Court. Newark Public Schools signed a lease for the property in December of 2021.

In May of 2022, NPS held a private groundbreaking that included elected officials like Mayor Ras Baraka and several NPS board members and state legislators. The site is slated to become the School of Architecture and Interior Design in 2023. Nigri and other investors purchased the former St. James Hospital in June of 2019.

Behind the scenes, according to the complaint, Nigri and the other owners were working to get Olshin’s to leave the property. Olshin’s, which has 34 years left on the lease it signed with previous owners, refused. 

Olshin’s alleges in the filing that the landlord has threatened its employees with physical harm, broke locks and forcibly entered the pharmacy, cut wires and pipes, and damaged and stole items from the premises.

Electricity, heating and air conditioning to the property were cut—even while the tenant continued to pay rent in an effort to continue its operations at the location, the suit alleges. When the tenant asked the landlord to repair these items, according to the suit, it said the landlord responded with “resistance and questions of ‘when are you leaving?’”

The tenant alleges in the lawsuit that it believes the landlord has removed asbestos without a permit and after business hours, damaging its ceilings and walls in the process.

Pictures contained in the complaint show holes in a bathroom ceiling, and fallen debris that the tenant alleges rendered the bathroom unusable. When that wasn’t enough to get Olshin’s to leave, the papers filed in court allege that workers at the construction site were instructed to dispose of broken glass and construction materials in front of the alternate entrance to the facility.

In February, the complaint alleges, the landlord called the Newark Fire Department “under false pretenses” to claim that the tenants were not lawfully there. When the tenants showed that they were there lawfully, the fire officials left. 

The next month, one of the construction workers at the site started throwing “bricks and glass out of a window above the leased premises and immediately outside of the entrance...which nearly struck'' one of its employees, according to the suit. When asked to stop, the construction worker told the tenant that the “owner” told him to do it, the suit alleges. Nearly all of Olshin’s staff members have now stopped coming to work for fear of getting hurt, the lawsuit says. 

Last month, the landlord served a notice of termination of the lease and a demand to vacate in three days. 

Attorneys for both parties could not be immediately reached for comment.

A consent order filed this week in court shows that the landlord, 155 Jefferson Street Urban Renewal LLC, has agreed to a temporary restraining order prohibiting the LLC and Nigri from “unlawfully harassing plaintiff and its employees, exercising any unlawful self-help remedies against plaintiff, and unlawfully interfering with plaintiff’s business.” 

The order says that Nigri and 155 Jefferson Street LLC have until September 16 to respond to Olshin’s complaint.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-08-21 02:52:34 -0700