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East Village restaurant sues city for $615K after losing outdoor dining structure

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An East Village restaurant is suing the city for tearing down its outdoor dining shed and seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Pinky’s Space, owned by parent company Cherry Velvet Inc., says that on the morning of Oct. 27 of last year, the city’s Department of Transportation demolished its outdoor dining structure “without any warning whatsoever” and “without cause, legal authority, or due process.” The lawsuit is seeking $615,000 in damages.

Pinky’s ownership said the eye-catching 30-foot structure built in July 2020, decked out in pink neon lights and complete with a garden, hanging disco ball and chandelier, cost tens of thousands of dollars to build and maintain. The suit claims that DOT workers destroyed Pinky’s private property, refusing to let the owners keep any of the wood, plants or other materials, and destroying the lights by cutting them, rendering them useless.

It was “guttural devastation,” according to Mimi Blitz, co-owner of the art-food venue.

“Beyond even the financial stuff, we put so much love in there, and care, and attention, and mindfulness and thoughtfulness of it,” Blitz told Gothamist. “It just got ripped away, and for unjust reasons.”

The dismantling of the structure came one month after Mayor Eric Adams announced an initiative to destroy abandoned or unsafe outdoor dining sheds. But Pinky’s owners said their structure was neither. A DOT spokesman told Gothamist that Blitz’s outdoor dining structure was too far off the curb, lacked “reflective materials” and was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was also covering a manhole, the spokesman said.

According to the lawsuit, Pinky’s received two cease and desist orders of compliance regarding the outdoor structure and made the requested changes on each occasion. The owners claimed they were never told their structure was dangerous and would be taken down.

“There was no communication in regards to saying, ‘Look, this is an imminent danger. We’re going to have to just sweep it away and take it away,’” Blitz said. “So we were completely caught off guard when that happened.”

But the DOT spokesman told Gothamist the restaurant owner had received “proper notification” of the structure’s removal, including a cease and desist in August alleging the structure was out of compliance and another notice on Oct. 4 providing a five-day heads up before demolition. A third notice was sent one week later, the spokesman said.

Blitz said the restaurant has been in a “financial tailspin” ever since after being forced to cancel a lineup of events planned in the outdoor space. Still, she and her husband were able to build a new structure out of scrap wood and other materials, and Blitz said they hope to remain in the neighborhood.

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