White Plains real estate lawyers sue landlord over dumpster debris

Two White Plains law firms are demanding nearly $136,000 from their landlord for allegedly operating a dirty, rodent-infested building.

Rosman Legal P.C., operated by Robert S. Rosman, and the Law Office of Peter Spino Jr. claim they have been denied the “peaceful and quiet enjoyment” of their office, in a July 10 complaint filed in Westchester Supreme Court against Empire South Broadway LLC.

7-11 South Broadway, White Plains

Empire’s attorney, Carl Finger, did not respond to a request for his client’s side of the story.

However, Empire’s parent company, Empire Residential LLC, Stamford, states on its website that one of its core principles is “commitment to excellence and tenant service.” And Empire has put the lawyers on notice that they will be evicted if they do not pay back rent.

The landlord-tenant dispute centers on the 7-11 Building at 7-11 South Broadway in downtown White Plains.

Empire bought the 4-story, 70,000-square-foot structure for $9.6 million in 2017.

The company is operated by co-founders Anthony Kolich, of Stamford, and Jamie Heffernan, of Rye. Their portfolio and past projects include apartment buildings, townhouses, office buildings and self-storage facilities in Fairfield and Westchester counties.

Last year, the Rosman and Spino law firms signed a 5-year lease for a second floor office, to begin in September. Both firms specialize in real estate legal services.

The alleged problems began with a two-month delay in being given possession of the office.

Then some of the electric outlets did not work, according to the complaint, but some lights could not be turned off. Vermin were inside the office and garbage was allowed to accumulate outside under their window.

Last winter, the heating system was inadequate, they claim, but in May and June the heat was on and the office was so hot that they could not invite clients in.

People awaiting Covid-19 testing and vaccines at Formé Urgent Care, another tenant in the building, gathered outside and inside the building, the complaint states. Some of the firms’ employees got sick or would not come to work “because of the risk to their health and safety.”

Many of the offices are vacant or rented on a month-to-month basis, according to the complaint, as Empire makes renovations to convert the building to residences.

At some point, a large dumpster was placed near the building’s rear entrance, under the firms’ window and near the back of the City Center parking garage.

The dumpster was kept filled beyond capacity with construction debris, garbage, “and even medical waste,” the complaint states.

After the lawyers complained about overflowing garbage to the city building department, the complaint states, the dumpster was removed and garbage was left on the pavement in the same place.

Rosman states in an affidavit that Empire has never addressed their concerns. Instead, last month, the landlord demanded unpaid rent of $14,602 and notified the firms that they would be evicted if they don’t pay.

The firms were forced to sue Empire, Rosman states in the affidavit, because of the imminent threat of losing their tenancy without the opportunity to dispute their rent obligations.

The lawyers claim that Empire has violated lease covenants and interfered with their use of the office. They are demanding full rent abatement, $5,834 for the delay in occupying the office, $90,000 for tortious interference with business operations, and $40,000 in legal fees. They also are asking the court to block an eviction until the dispute is litigated.

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