New York City Neighbor Sues Chef Bouley Over Eatery’s Trash

By JENNIFER PELTZ | April 22, 2011

A neighbor says star chef and restaurateur David Bouley’s trash is really bugging him.

A Bouley eatery’s food storage and garbage are subjecting the building next door to insects, odors and “seeping black ooze” coming through a basement floor, building owner W. Robert Curtis says in a lawsuit. Bouley’s representatives didn’t immediately respond Wednesday.

Curtis, a lawyer, owns and works in in a building in Manhattan’s trendy TriBeCa neighborhood. It’s next to one of Bouley’s restaurants, Bouley Studio, on a block that also houses the prolific restaurateur’s flagship, simply called Bouley.

Curtis and Bouley were on good terms for years, with Curtis even writing letters of support for some of Bouley’s ventures, according to the lawsuit, filed last week. But their relationship soured after Bouley moved a lot of food preparation and disposal from a building across the street into the basement below Bouley Studio and started leaving trash for pickup outside and next to Curtis’ building, the lawsuit says.

The onslaught of refuse has made Curtis’ basement office “at times uninhabitable from an infestation of fruit flies, blood-sucking bugs, bugs that just raise welts, odors of rotting garbage, seeping black ooze through the floor and dangerous waste piled high in front,” he wrote. “There are times when a glass of wine gathers several hundred fruit flies.”

Bouley has broken promises to deal with the problem, Curtis added.

He said he’s lost at least $120,000 in rent because of the restaurant’s waste. He’s seeking at least $480,000 in damages in the suit, filed last week.

The Connecticut-born Bouley became a big name in New York’s dining scene in the 1990s, known for combining fresh American flavors with classic French culinary techniques. His flagship restaurant took the city’s eating elite by storm, displacing longstanding crème-de-la-crème establishments such as the Four Seasons and Lutece to top the Zagat survey for the city.

The James Beard Foundation, which gives awards seen as the food-world equivalent of an Oscar, named Bouley the country’s best restaurant in 1991 and anointed its namesake the nation’s outstanding chef in 2000.

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