Germanotta owns two restaurants in the city: Joanne Trattoria on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Art Bird & Whiskey Bar, which is located at the dining concourse of Grand Central Station – a busy transportation hub.
The latter location is the one he says is struggling due to the presence of homeless people in the station.
Germanotta is withholding about $260,000 in rent and fees for the venue to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Tim Minton, the MTA’s Communications Director, confirmed the information with The Independent.
Plans for the MTA to buy Grand Central Terminal for $35m were announced in November 2018.
Germanotta told The Wall Street Journal he wants the MTA to set him free from his lease, scheduled to expire in 2028, or to renegotiate it. His rent and fees currently come to $50,000 a month.
“I want to stay,” Germanotta told the newspaper. “I just can’t afford to under these conditions.”
He also told the New York Post: “The homeless go in there to stay warm. We’re compassionate, but it affects our customers. When the homeless invade our areas, it becomes a less attractive place.”
Minton described the situation to The Independent as a “landlord-tenant dispute” and called the Grand Central food court a “retailer’s dream”.
“The reality is homeless people deserve the same rights and the same compassion as everybody else,” Minton said.
A letter from the MTA reviewed by The Wall Street Journal says the authority will begin repossessing the property if payments aren’t made within two weeks.
According to CBS, Germanotta attended an MTA committee meeting on Monday and pitched a potential plan, in which a special space would be dedicated to homeless people – with free food donations coming from the area’s restaurants.
Germanotta reportedly said he knew of several restaurant owners who would join in the donations.
However, Chief Al Stiehler of the MTA raised objections, stating: “I just think segregating people like that is taking us down a bad road.”
The Independent has contacted Art Bird & Whiskey Bar for comment.