Tom Vicari Is Fighting for the Life of Casa Havana

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Photo: Shanna Ravindra

Restaurateur Tom Vicari is battling to stave off eviction from the Chelsea space he leased in 2007 for his popular Casa Havana Cuban luncheonette, and claims that his landlord, the leader of a low-income housing cooperative board next door, is engaging in strong-arm tactics to remove him, even going so far as ripping out the wires to his security alarm in the wee morning hours. Last year, the 18890 Eighth Avenue Housing Development Fund Corp. (led by Jimmy Roldos) sued Vicari after he had stopped paying rent. Vicari, who now owes more than $100,000, says he stopped writing rent checks because Roldos had locked him out of portions of the basement and backyard that were covered in his lease. The judge in the civil case dismissed the complaint and hoped for a settlement, but Roldoss new lawyer, Edward Joseph Filmyr IV, says he intends to once again sue Vicari, this time in the appellate term court of New York Supreme Court and possibly in a matter of days.

Meanwhile, Vicari claims that Jimmy Roldos entered his basement at 4:30 a.m. on October 18, tripping the wires on his security alarm and sending police to the scene. Vicari, who also appeared at the scene, claims Roldos was "ripping out the wires," but police didn't arrest him for criminal mischief because "he claimed he was checking the boiler. But that didn't give him the right to cut the wires for my alarm. And who does that at 4 a.m. in the morning?" Vicari said he videotaped part of the incident and has turned it over to the NYPD. More recently, Vicari says he received a letter from Roldos's wife Sandy demanding that he clear out a dishwasher and other fixtures from his basement by October 28, since the basement was actually a common area.

Roldos's lawyer, Edward Joseph Filmyr IV, said he could not comment on the police incident since he wasnt there, but said his client intended to sue Vicari for back rent soon. Efforts to reach Jimmy Roldos were unavailing. Vicari's lawyer, Joel Bernstein, said his client didn't owe any rent to the cooperative since the Roldos had illegally locked him out of portions of Casa Havana's basement and backyard, "and we won in court." He claims that several residential tenants are also being threatened with eviction