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Better Late Than Never, Nisi Safety Violations Bring Shutdown Threat

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Safety violations in Nisi’s kitchen festered for years, but now, the hazards finally brought action. Hudson Related Retail, managers of Main Street Retail, ordered a near immediate clean up or shutdown of the operation.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

A reliable source shared with The Daily a copy of a letter dated February 9th, 2023. In dramatic tones – like “enough is enough” – Hudson Related Retail demanded that Nisi address longstanding safety violations in its kitchen or lose its lease.

Accordingly, Tenant is hereby in default under the Lease and is hereafter prohibited from any further cooking the Premises until such time that (a) Tenant cleans the grease buildup using a reputable cleaning company, (b) addresses the odor issue by repairing the venting and exhaust system, (c) performs an inspection with a reputable health and safety inspector and (d) provides the applicable report to Landlord showing that the entire kitchen system is safe to operate and no longer a fire hazard.

Didier Ruiz, Hudson Related Retail

This issue is not new, as we reported in January 2021. In May of the same year, after the Department of Buildings filed the complaint of violations, we elaborated.

“Inspection by a professional engineer, that same month, discovered severe fire hazards in Nisi’s kitchen. Sprinkler heads, among other concerns, were inoperable because of caked-on grease.”

But maybe it’s not all on Nisi. The venting system is part of the original structure. And according to another source within RIOC, repairs were never done because no one agreed on who should pay for the work.

RIOC Blows Off the Safety Violations

But in January 2021, RIOC’s General Counsel Gretchen Robinson had already stiff-armed Island House’s managing partner. Robinson’s lack of seriousness was underscored by her referring to the state agency as the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation.

As the owner of the property in which Nisi operates, RIOC is ultimately responsible for all elements including fire safety.

“RIOC appreciates your concerns regarding the commercial tenants at Island House,” she wrote, “and we are working diligently to make sure that they comply with all terms of their leases.”

But like so much of what spills out of RIOC, that wasn’t true as a recent inspection proves. Quoting from Didier Ruiz’s February 9th letter: “Tenant is currently operating the kitchen in the Premises in a manner that Landlord has been advised is a fire hazard.”

That is, it appears that Nisi never corrected the fire safety hazards and has continued risking lives on a daily basis.

Why It’s a Problem

Explaining why the fire safety violations at Nisi are a problem poses a problem in itself.

Roosevelt Islanders, like any other community, should expect safe and secure operations as a default. With RIOC’s Public Safety Department directly across the street and officers making regular coffee runs, back and forth, residents should not have to think twice.

But the state agency run by Governor Kathy Hochul and President/CEO Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes is known for its toxic combination of laziness and irresponsibility.

Nisi embedded in Island House.

As you can see from the photo above, building construction embedded the restaurant inside Island House. Its kitchen sits directly below dozens of homes.

  • Exhaust ducts from the kitchen have been coated with grease, a huge fire hazard, for years.
  • The sprinklers are also caked with grease and, according to an inspection report, inoperable.

The threat is clear but unaddressed for at least two years. While residents of all ages sleep at night, a prolonged fire hazard puts their lives at risk.

RIOC could have and should have taken care of this immediately, but of course, they didn’t. Because that’s RIOC, dependent on residents’ money for its very existence but as detached as a carpetbagger passing through.

The Roosevelt Island Daily is always free to read. But our expenses are not. Publishing has costs beyond the human ones of writing and reporting. We appreciate your generous contribution in support our work. Thank you.

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