Lady Gaga's father is refusing to pay $260,000 in rent and fees for his restaurant at New York City's Grand Central Terminal, saying the homeless population is hurting his business.
Joe Germanotta, owner of Art Bird & Whiskey Bar, said he wants the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which oversees the busy commuter train station, to renegotiate his rent or release him from his lease, which expires in 2028, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Germanotta and other business owners on the terminal's lower concourse said they are struggling because of a homelessness problem, rodent infestation, and outdated furniture and facilities.
"I want to stay," Germanotta said. "I just can't afford to under these conditions."
Several restaurateurs said that they regret securing a lease and that monthly payments consume 30% or more of their gross revenues — double what they would expect to pay at another location in the city, the Journal reported in December.
The Journal reviewed a letter from the MTA to Germanotta telling him if his debt was not paid within two weeks, the authority would begin the process of repossessing the property.
If an agreement can't be reached with the MTA, Germanotta said, he plans to seek more than $1.5 million for investments in the restaurant, construction and loss of business.
Germanotta attended an MTA board meeting Monday and told commissioners the homelessness and state of public restrooms is causing business owners in the terminal to struggle.
MTA board member Neal Zuckerman acknowledged the homelessness in the terminal, citing "loitering and frankly harassment" of commuters.
But MTA Police Chief Al Stiehler said officers will not eject people who are abiding by terminal rules.
"These are people, they are suffering, they need help, they need assistance and we will do everything we can every day to provide them the help that they need," Stiehler said. "We are very mindful to protect their rights."