Over the past week and a half, Flatbush residents and community activists have launched an online petition to save Scoops and Plates Eatery, a long-standing neighborhood mainstay serving up vegan ice cream and Caribbean eats. It comes at the heels of Scoops' owner, Tony Fongyit, saying he was abruptly given notice to vacate at the end of the month, with little notice or communication from his landlord.
Fongyit, who immigrated to New York City from Trinidad in the 1960s, has been living in Flatbush for decades. He's helmed his beloved shop at Flatbush Avenue and Fenimore for nearly 35 years, but said that he'd been struggling repeatedly to make contact with his landlord about renewing his lease, which expired six months ago. Apparently Fongyit was then approached earlier this month, told to pack up his things, and be out by the end of the month. "Why is it they want me out? I would love to know," Fongyit told Patch Brooklyn.
Following the sudden news, the Flatbush community organized to help Fongyit with the fight to save his shop, gathering volunteers to tape up signs urging his landlord, Lawrence Bernstein, to renew his lease. Equality for Flatbush also organized activists for a rally, which happened Saturday, and featured the likes of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams sharing their memories and support for the shop.
#SaveScoops! I’ve loved Scoops long before I was a vegan. They’ve been a mainstay on Flatbush Avenue for more than 30 years, and they’re not at risk of not having their lease renewed. Brooklyn’s popularity must translate into prosperity for all, especially longtime Brooklynites. pic.twitter.com/fCP5g4tBy2
— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) May 25, 2019
Now he's reportedly in talks with his landlord, the Brooklyn Paper reports: Bernstein contacted Fongyit and the two are currently having "discussions regarding a possible lease renewal." According to the Department of Buildings, no current laws exist in New York City that protect commercial businesses whose leases have expired. While residential tenants' rights are protected under legislation in New York City, commercial tenants' rights are "almost all governed by the lease."
Bernstein did not immediately reply to Gothamist's request for comment.
The Real Deal reports that in 2015, Jonas Equities, the real estate company where Bernstein is Vice President, bought the six-story, mixed-use building occupied by Scoops with his company for $14.1 million. Since Bernstein took over, Fongyit has said that it's been a struggle to communicate with his landlord—a fact that's particularly troubling, given how rents in Flatbush have skyrocketed in recent years (A 2018 Streeteasy report revealed that Flatbush was one of the neighborhoods with the fastest rise in rent since 2010, with an uptick of 38%).
"I'm worried about Scoops," Fongyit said in a video produced by Equality for Flatbush two years ago, which focuses on local business owners talking about changes in the neighborhood. "Getting a new lease. I'm trying to talk to the landlord about the new lease, and hoping we can come to some kind of agreement that against all odds. I'd really, really love to stay."
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Fongyit declined to comment for this story, citing ongoing conversations with his landlord and lawyer. We'll update this story when we know more.