Eleven years after buying The Briar’s Restaurant, George Paganis says he has discovered that parts of the building are contaminated with asbestos, lead paint and petroleum.
Paganis claims that the second floor of the house he rents in Briarcliff Manor is useless, and he is suing his landlords in Westchester Supreme Court, demanding that they clean up the building and pay back more than $500,000 in rent payments.
Efforts to reach the landlords for comment – Kallie Edge and Dimitrious Vitaliotis of Croton-on-Hudson and Vasilios Gargeros of Dunedin, Florida – failed. Their attorney, Carl Finger based in White Plains, said he is not aware of the case and has no comment at this time.
Paganis paid $450,000 for the business in 2006. The sales contract, according to the lawsuit, promised that there were no toxic substances or hazardous wastes in the old house at 512 N. State St.
In 2007, Paganis agreed to rent the building at $7,500 a month plus real estate taxes for 30 years.
The lease acknowledged that asbestos had been cleaned up in the basement, citing a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An inspector hired by Paganis reported a potential presence of asbestos and lead paint throughout the building.
But the landlords, according to the lawsuit, assured him that there were no environmental hazards and that the restaurant had a valid certificate of occupancy for the entire building.
Paganis discovered that the second floor did not have a certificate of occupancy, the complaint states, after he took possession of the premises. Losing the use of more than one-third of the restaurant’s space made it difficult to make a profit, so he spent about $500,000 improving and expanding the building.
Paganis still wanted to make use of the second floor, so last year he looked into getting a certificate of occupancy. An environmental assessment consultant discovered asbestos and lead paint throughout the second floor. A contractor estimated that a cleanup would cost $52,500.
Paganis also saw evidence of petroleum in water that had leaked into the basement, possibly from a tank under the building.
The conditions existed before Paganis leased the property, attorneys Michael D. Zarin and Kate Roberts say in the complaint, and the landlords had misled the restaurateur.
The landlords have refused to remediate the conditions, the complaint states.
Based on the square footage of the second floor, Paganis claims that he has overpaid the rent by $45,880 a year for eleven years, totaling $504,680. He is suing for that portion of the rent payments, the costs of fixing the problems and the costs of obtaining a certificate of occupancy for the entire building.