BOERUM HILL — As the Boerum Hill community continues its fight to save a beloved corner deli that may close because of a rent hike, the property’s landlord fired off a letter denying that the imminent closure is her fault.
Landlord Karina Bilger, whose group Bilger Design & Development LLC failed to come to an agreement to the terms of a new long-term contract with Jesse’s Deli, at 402 Atlantic Ave., said she's not to blame for the shop's planned closure at the end of the summer.
While Bilger — who has been bombarded with signatures in support of keeping the deli open since news of its closure went public — admitted to not renewing the lease for Jesse’s Deli, she blamed the family-run business for the negotiation impasse.
“We offered Jesse and his family a lease renewal on very favorable terms over two years ago. Jesse and his family refused the lease offer, which was well under market rent and would have given them a ten-year extension,” Bilger said in an email to community members and DNAinfo New York on Sunday.
“The failure to come to terms on a lease renewal is not at all the fault of the landlord,” she added.
Bilger, who has owned property in the neighborhood for more than two decades, said in her email she planned to put the property back on the rental market.
“I believe I have been instrumental in a little way in the betterment of our neighborhood. In the selection of a new tenant, I will be sensitive to the needs of our wonderful community,” she said.
Mohenad Itayim, whose family runs Jesse’s Deli, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But he posted on a neighborhood Facebook page that he was “glad to see the community rallying.”
“Our promise to everyone is that we will try our best, be transparent as we have been, and are willing to come back to the negotiating table to a fair offer,” he said.
Jill Harris, a local resident who started a petition to help save the deli, urged supporters to email Bilger in hopes of persuading the landlord to return to the negotiating table with Jesse’s.
“There might be a way to still appeal to [Bilger],” said Harris.
More than 1,200 signatures have been collected in support of the Boerum Hill deli, said Patti Sullivan, Harris’ partner, who has lived in the neighborhood for 23 years.
Sullivan added that she also sent an email to Bilger in hopes of appealing to her sense of community.
“Let me tell you why Jesse’s means so much to all of us," she said in the email, "It’s not the convenience of a coffee or milk at all times of the day, it’s all about who they have been to us as a family and what they have come to mean to us as a community."