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Ah, the Sweet Smell of . . . a $500,000 Lawsuit

A condominium board on the Upper East Side is asking a judge to stop a newly opened Subway restaurant from baking fresh bread, claiming the building is being “inundated with strong and nauseating food odors,” causing property values to plummet.
The owner of the franchise, Tae Hyun Shin, 47, said yesterday that he had tried to accommodate his neighbors, offering to reimburse them to dry-clean clothes they say smell as well as installing a $3,500 ventilation system that he says pushes the baking fragrance onto Second Ave.
The campaign is being spearheaded by a couple who live on the third floor. They allege in a lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court that the lobby, basement, and stairs of the Waterford Condominium at 300 E. 93rd St. suddenly began smelling almost two weeks ago, after the restaurant opened.
“Defendants have failed to abate the condition, thereby damaging the health and safety of the condominium’s unit owners and employees,” the suit says.
The building’s resident manager. Freddy Alvarez, could smell the “odors, smoke, and vapors” from his 46th floor office, the suit says.
For his part, Mr. Shin said the condo board, which seeks more than $500,000, filed the suit without giving him enough time after the woman complained to try to fix the problem.
“She’s complaining. I say ‘Okay, I’ll do something with a ventilation system,'” Mr. Shin said, gesturing toward a small, hermetically sealed chamber enclosing the store’s bread oven. “But it’s not a sandwich, I cannot make it right away.”
An inspector from the city Department of Environmental Protection visited several days ago, Mr. Shin said, but didn’t issue the store a summons.
Mr. Shin said the ventilation system, which was finished being installed Saturday, would prevent aromas from reaching his condo neighbors.
A weekend desk attendant at the Waterford, Ruben Toro, said the smell had wafted into the lobby since the Subway restaurant opened, but that the odor disappeared when Mr. Shin installed the ventilation.
A spokesman for the city environmental agency that issues summonses for odors couldn’t be reached for comment over the weekend.
Recent history has seen several high-profile battles over odor control in a city where thousands of food establishments operate storefronts near and often directly below residences.
A Chelsea Krispy Kreme doughnut shop was fined more than $1,000 in the late 1990s for odor and other violations. At around the same time, neighbors of Pearson’s Texas Barbecue in Long Island City, Queens, celebrated its closing after complaining for years that hickory vapors seeped into their homes and factories.
While odor complains are common, the suit threat unnerved Mr. Shin.
“$500,000? They think I have that much money”? Mr. Shin said, shaking his head and pacing in the restaurant’s basement office.
Mr. Shin, a Korean immigrant who has lived in America for more than two decades and owns a nail salon next door, said he could never afford to pay the $500,000 the residents’ lawsuit is seeking; he had to put a lien on his Middle Village, Queens, home in order to get a $110,000 bank loan to open the shop.
“I don’t have enough money for that,” Mr. Shin said, referring to the damages the condo is seeking. “I heard that America is a lawsuit country, but this is really . . . .”
Neither the complainants nor their attorney could be immediately reached for comment.
Mr. Shin’s landlord, Alrose 1776 LLC, didn’t immediately return phone messages seeking comment.