Students, parents and owners of a karate school, Beyond Martial Arts, gathered on Columbia Street yesterday afternoon to protest the organization’s eviction from a commercial space in the Masaryk Towers residential complex.
The city marshal posted a notice on the door at 60 Columbia St. last week, amid a long-running court battle between tenant and landlord. The two sides are due back in court at the end of this week. Meanwhile, dozens of kids are unable to participate in Beyond Martial Arts’ classes and after school programs.
The owner of the business, Phil Quinones, told us Monday that he owes back rent but that there are extenuating circumstances. Quinones said he’s been forced to pay Con Ed bills for the entire building, including Masaryk’s swimming pool, and to make other repairs that should have been the landlord’s responsibility. Mounting legal bills have prompted Beyond Martial Arts to start a crowdfunding campaign. There’s also a petition drive to show support for the small business.
Longtime Lower East Side resident Nancy Ortiz has two grandchildren enrolled in the after school programs. Beyond Martial Arts “has been a lifesaver,” she said. In a neighborhood with a dearth of quality after school activities, Ortiz explained, the school provides young kids with a structure and discipline. “They pick the children up at school, help them with their homework and just cater to a lot of the community’s needs.”
The manager of Masaryk Towers, Mitch Magidson, tells a different story. In a phone interview, he told us that Beyond Martial Arts owes the co-op money and it failed to provide services (the lease required the firm to provide free classes to Masaryk residents). As far as he’s concerned, Quinones was legally evicted. “It’s a done deal,” he said, adding that no new tenant is lined up to take the space.
Beyond Martial Arts has been at Masaryk Towers since 2013. The business was previously located on Attorney Street.