A roof leak at a Red Bank laundry shop early Tuesday ruined customer garments and may have caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment damage, the owners say.
It also unleashed a torrent of accusations between the owners and their landlord.
According to borough fire department officials who investigated the incident Tuesday morning, the leak was one of many caused by a combination of heavy rain and ice-blocked downspouts, some of which have tripped alarms.
But Youssef Bahket of Brownstone Cleaners claims that today’s leak is just the latest in a series of leaks dating back years that the building’s landlord has refused to fix. He said he went to the police station out of desperation, prompting a visit by safety inspectors and the fire department also the latest in a series.
In reply, landlord Linda DeAngelis, who lives above the business, says Bahket is “an arrogant, conniving liar” who “lied” to officials by claiming the roof had collapsed in two places when it is merely leaking, a problem she says she’s racing to fix.
Bahket showed redbankgreen numerous places where water was still pouring through the ceiling late Tuesday morning, including a leak that he believes may have destroyed a $35,000 dry-cleaning machine.
“I’m scared to put the electricity on,” he said. “The fire department said, ‘Don’t put it on.'”
The leaks have been occuring for years, he said, with DeAngelis sending out a repairman to make patches just once, two years ago, only to have the problem recur shortly thereafter.
“It’s always, ‘I will, I will, I will,'” said Bahket’s wife, Karen.
The couple also took a reporter to back room where the cement floor has buckled. Safety inspectors put up caution tape about a year ago, the Bahkets said, to prevent anyone from working in or walking through the area, lest it collapse.
The antipathy between the landlord and tenant appears deep-seated and long-running.
The Bahkets have owned the business about four years, and Youssef, and Egyptian immigrant who says his English is not very good, said he naively signed a lease that required him to supply hot water to DeAngelis’ apartment, forcing him to keep a 600-gallon boiler running full-time and driving up his expenses. The lease also requires him to pay for electricity to an adjoining space rented to the Count Basie Theatre Phoenix Productions for storage, he said.
Now, with water pouring in, “I can’t do any work,” he said, adding that none of the authorities he’s spoken to will intervene on his behalf with the landlord. “Is somebody going to help me?”
DeAngelis, who says she’s an officer of Deezee Inc., which owns the building, lit into Bahket when redbankgreen asked her about his claims.
She said she’s urgently trying to fix the leaks, but that Bahket had overstated the problem. She also accused him of violating the lease innumerable ways, from making structural changes that were not authorized to failing to shovel snow in the parking area. She said Bahket’s son had “keyed” her car “at least three times.”
The roof and the floor repairs had been delayed by a “lengthy” review and permitting process at borough hall, less than a block away, but they would be made, she claimed.
“He’s a hostile tenant,” she said. “He’s spiteful and vindictive. He’s doing this to spite us.”
Asked about Bahket’s claim of having been duped into an unfair lease, DeAngelis said Bahket is “stupid stupid like a fox He’s a conniving liar.”