The Off-Broadway theatre, located in a basement of One Union Square East Condominium and currently home to the Hollywood comedy Billy and Ray, says the sewage backup problem has been occurring for almost 20 years, beginning in the mid-1990s.
The Vineyard's lawyers at the Debevoise and Plimpton firm say in court papers that the theatre has been "repeatedly flooded with sewage" that has backed up offstage in the greenroom, exposing actors, staff and audience to "noxious odors." They credit this occurrence to the condominium's failure to maintain and service the building's wastewater system. Papers state the sewage has left the Vineyard inoperable and forced the theatre to rent rehearsal space while the building was cleaned and that following "significant damage" that took place in summer 2014, engineers told the theatre that it will need to spend at least $6,000 in emergency repairs.
The Daily News reports that the Vineyard is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. It is also asking the courts to order the board to pay for a solution and for ongoing maintenance and to order One Union Square East to take over the sewage problem and reimburse the theatre for the pumps it installed and the $100,000 it has spent maintaining them.
The theatre is also asking the courts to declare the building's sewage system as a common element. The court papers state that Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, which owns the largest commercial unit in the complex and sits on the condominium's commercial board, ordered a study in 2012. The Daily News reports that the hospital's consultants confirmed Vineyard's argument that its pumps were servicing both residential and other commercial units in the building, but the theatre says the condominium's boards have not addressed the problem yet.
The Vineyard states that a benefactor helped the theatre buy two pumps for $150,000 in 1999, but "the pump problems have continued unabated" because the motors became clogged with mop heads and other debris.