Auto Shop blocks East Harlem project by Rybak Development

From left to right: Sergey Rybak from Rybak Development and Elie Fouerti from Appliances Connection (Getty Images, Rybak Development, YouTube/Elie Fouerti, Google Maps)

For the second time this year, a development by Sergey Rybak was blocked by a resister.

After an uncooperative synagogue thwarted its plans for a 20-story mixed-use building on the Upper East Side, an East Harlem auto shop is set to dismantle another project by the developer based in Brooklyn.

Prestige Automotive, which has operated an auto repair shop at 2013 Third Avenue for 15 years, sits between Rybak Development and its vision of a 15-story mixed-income building with retail space on site.

Rybak, with the owner of the building, Elie Fouertishifted their efforts to clean up the property into high gear, a lawsuit alleges.

In the complaintfiled last week, Prestige alleges that Fouerti and Rybak harassed the auto shop in an attempt to drive him out because the tenant rents “the only part of the development site that remains occupied.”

City records show that the developers’ plan for the 91-unit apartment building encompasses 2005-2015 Third Avenue, the east side of the avenue bounded by 110th and 111th streets.

The developer reclaimed the buildings on this block last November, paying a collective $13.4 million for the auto shop property and an adjacent site that housed a grocery store.

After New York, Yimby reported in March that Fouerti had demolition permit filed for the southern half of the site, Prestige says workers began razing Third Avenue 2005-2011 in April.

The lawsuit alleges that work on 2011 Third Avenue, the building that adjoins the auto shop, dislodged debris that rained on cars in Prestige’s garage, causing damage estimated at $40,000.

Additionally, the auto shop claims Fouerti and Rybak began interior demolition of 2011 Third Avenue without a proper permit — city records show a partial interior demolition permit was issued. filed in June — and that the Buildings Department has repeatedly flagged the work as “illegal and unsafe construction.”

Still, workers at the site violated multiple stop work orders, the suit alleges, and racked up $45,000 in fines. A Ministry of Buildings complaint filed in July claims a crew removed a stop work sign and began work.

Then, early last month, the store discovered that its internet and phone service had been cut off near the side of the building that borders Third Avenue 2011 and developers had sealed off the roof with two-by-fours, preventing a Spectrum crew from restore service.

Prestige says that without internet and phone access, it was forced to close for five days,
resulting in a loss of business of $50,000.

Even before Fouerti and Rybak became involved with the site, the complaint alleges that the former owner, AK Properties Group, had tried to pressure Prestige into terminating its lease.

Prestige renewed its lease agreement in early 2020, extending its lease until August 2028. This agreement overturned a provision that would have allowed the landlord to terminate the lease based on an intention to sell the property, according to the pursuit.

But in June 2021, AK attempted to do just that. He then sent Prestige a certificate of estoppel – a document clarifying the terms of the lease – in September. However, the auto shop refused to sign the certificate before the building was sold, the complaint states.

The auto shop has now asked the court to restrain Fouerti and Rybak from engaging in further acts of harassment and is seeking a civil penalty of $50,000, compensatory damages of at least $100,000 and $25,000 in attorney’s fees.

Neither Fouerti nor Rybak responded to a request for comment.

Alejandro L. Myatt