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Allston Business Sues Harvard

By Elizabeth S. Zuckerman

One of Harvard's newest tenants, Fastnet Foreign Motors, an Allston-based business, has filed suit against both the University and Beal Companies, alleging that they failed to address health, safety and building code violations at the 100 Windom St. property the company occupies.

Sal's Auto Body, another tenant at the Windom St. property is also considering legal action, citing experiences similar to Fastnet's--unanswered requests for repairs and permits, according to the company's attorney.

Fastnet's property suffers from problems including sewage backing up in the drain, rat-infestation in the walls and also contains a structurally unsound fire wall and storage loft, charges the suit. The complaint alleges that repeated requests for Beal, the property managers, to fix the violations and to secure proper permits for the space have gone unanswered.

Boston's Department of Inspectional Services has recorded a number of violations at the 100 Windom St. property. According to Inspectional Services, a citation for unsafe and dangerous interior structures remains open. The city is currently in court with Beal regarding other violations on the same property which include the lack of second exitways in tenant spaces, insufficient emergency lighting and the lack of proper fire walls between units.

"The majority of issues [in the suit] are concerning conditions at this location a year ago. It is our understanding that Beal has been making a good faith effort to rectify those conditions," said Joseph G. Wrinn Jr., a University spokesperson. Harvard did not assume ownership of the property until this June.

The 100 Windom St. property is part of the more than 52.6 acres of land that the University revealed it had secretly purchased through Beal Companies over the last nine years in Allston.

Although a number of Fastnet's complaints about the building's condition have been addressed including the recent construction of a new roof, owner Tony O'Baoill said he intends to relocate because "there's no future here."

"When it broke in the paper that Harvard was the owner, for us that was our answer as to why none of the problems we had were dealt with," he said.

O'Baoill said he believes the reason for Beal's poor maintenance was that the University plans to develop the property.

Wrinn said he disagreed with O'Baoill's assessment noting that Harvard has no plans for any of its recently acquired acreage in Allston and was unaware of Fastnet's lawsuit until last week.

At present, the fire wall in Fastnet's unit, which according to O'Baoill was built to subdivide the space prior to his tenancy, is still cracked and bowed out. A gap which exists where the wall does not meet the ceiling is patched with plywood and insulation. According to O'Baoill, the wall did not seal with the underside of the ceiling even before a March 1996 fire left it structurally unsound.

O'Baoill is also suing to recoup damages he suffered from the fire which occurred in the adjacent space, he said.

"The breaking point was in June," Fastnet's attorney John Pollets said. "Tony called and said there were maggots on his desk. Rats were rotting in the ceiling and the maggots were dropping from there." Fastnet's lawsuit calls for trebled damages to be paid to the company for these conditions.

Harvard and Beal, which continues to manage the property for the University, had previously filed their own suit to evict Fastnet for unpaid rent.

"Fastnet has withheld substantial rent and we have filed a claim to remove them," said Beal's senior vice president Peter B. Nichols, who is responsible for the 100 Windom St. property.

Spokespersons for both Beal and Harvard have said they consider O'Baoill's filing a "counter suit."

But according to Pollets, Fastnet was up to date on rent until the fire and stopped paying full rent until the repairs were made under his direction.

"This isn't a question of not paying rent. We've been trying to deal with them for over a year to get them to make the repairs," Pollets said.

Sal's Auto Body, also one of Pollets' clients and another 100 Windom St. tenant, cited similar experiences with Beal.

Pointing to holes in his garage doors and a broken lock on his side door which he said was broken by firefighters in the March 1996 incident and never repaired, owner Suhail "Sal" Alami said Beal has not responded to his complaints either.

After a city inspection in February 1996, Alami was forced to close down his wooden spray booth and stop painting cars. When he applied for a permit to build a metal one, he said he was told that he could not get the permit because the property was not zoned for auto body work.

According to Pollets, Beal never took and still fails to take the necessary steps to secure the permits Alami needs; as a result his client is forced to contract out much of his work.

However, Alami said he was pleased when he learned Harvard was the owner of the property because he had had problems with Beal.

Citing trimmed hedges, newly-laid mulch and the addition of signs which prohibit overnight parking, Alami said that since the University announced its ownership, Beal's maintenance of the parking lot has gotten better.

Other 100 Windom St. tenants had fewer complaints about Beal's management but were wary of the University.

Tamera O'Dell, who works with her husband at his business, Broadway Foreign Auto Repair, said they took over an existing business, assumed its lease and were able to renew it. They have had no problems securing permits and have always found Beal responsive to maintenance requests.

O'Dell said she was not concerned about upkeep when Harvard took over the ownership because she feels "they want to keep it up in a way that would be consistent with their reputation."

But O'Dell said having Harvard as a landlord made her worry about the future.

"We don't know what their plans are," she said. "I'm not ready to retire yet. It's a good location for us."

Felix Shneur, owner of Superior Installations, also located at 100 Windom St., had similar concerns.

"I have no lease," he said. "What if they're going to tell me tomorrow or today, 30 days and you're out?"

Superior Installations is like both Fastnet and Sal's--a tenant-at-will in the building. Without leases, tenants-at-will can be evicted with a 30 day notice at the will of the landlord

Boston's Department of Inspectional Services has recorded a number of violations at the 100 Windom St. property. According to Inspectional Services, a citation for unsafe and dangerous interior structures remains open. The city is currently in court with Beal regarding other violations on the same property which include the lack of second exitways in tenant spaces, insufficient emergency lighting and the lack of proper fire walls between units.

"The majority of issues [in the suit] are concerning conditions at this location a year ago. It is our understanding that Beal has been making a good faith effort to rectify those conditions," said Joseph G. Wrinn Jr., a University spokesperson. Harvard did not assume ownership of the property until this June.

The 100 Windom St. property is part of the more than 52.6 acres of land that the University revealed it had secretly purchased through Beal Companies over the last nine years in Allston.

Although a number of Fastnet's complaints about the building's condition have been addressed including the recent construction of a new roof, owner Tony O'Baoill said he intends to relocate because "there's no future here."

"When it broke in the paper that Harvard was the owner, for us that was our answer as to why none of the problems we had were dealt with," he said.

O'Baoill said he believes the reason for Beal's poor maintenance was that the University plans to develop the property.

Wrinn said he disagreed with O'Baoill's assessment noting that Harvard has no plans for any of its recently acquired acreage in Allston and was unaware of Fastnet's lawsuit until last week.

At present, the fire wall in Fastnet's unit, which according to O'Baoill was built to subdivide the space prior to his tenancy, is still cracked and bowed out. A gap which exists where the wall does not meet the ceiling is patched with plywood and insulation. According to O'Baoill, the wall did not seal with the underside of the ceiling even before a March 1996 fire left it structurally unsound.

O'Baoill is also suing to recoup damages he suffered from the fire which occurred in the adjacent space, he said.

"The breaking point was in June," Fastnet's attorney John Pollets said. "Tony called and said there were maggots on his desk. Rats were rotting in the ceiling and the maggots were dropping from there." Fastnet's lawsuit calls for trebled damages to be paid to the company for these conditions.

Harvard and Beal, which continues to manage the property for the University, had previously filed their own suit to evict Fastnet for unpaid rent.

"Fastnet has withheld substantial rent and we have filed a claim to remove them," said Beal's senior vice president Peter B. Nichols, who is responsible for the 100 Windom St. property.

Spokespersons for both Beal and Harvard have said they consider O'Baoill's filing a "counter suit."

But according to Pollets, Fastnet was up to date on rent until the fire and stopped paying full rent until the repairs were made under his direction.

"This isn't a question of not paying rent. We've been trying to deal with them for over a year to get them to make the repairs," Pollets said.

Sal's Auto Body, also one of Pollets' clients and another 100 Windom St. tenant, cited similar experiences with Beal.

Pointing to holes in his garage doors and a broken lock on his side door which he said was broken by firefighters in the March 1996 incident and never repaired, owner Suhail "Sal" Alami said Beal has not responded to his complaints either.

After a city inspection in February 1996, Alami was forced to close down his wooden spray booth and stop painting cars. When he applied for a permit to build a metal one, he said he was told that he could not get the permit because the property was not zoned for auto body work.

According to Pollets, Beal never took and still fails to take the necessary steps to secure the permits Alami needs; as a result his client is forced to contract out much of his work.

However, Alami said he was pleased when he learned Harvard was the owner of the property because he had had problems with Beal.

Citing trimmed hedges, newly-laid mulch and the addition of signs which prohibit overnight parking, Alami said that since the University announced its ownership, Beal's maintenance of the parking lot has gotten better.

Other 100 Windom St. tenants had fewer complaints about Beal's management but were wary of the University.

Tamera O'Dell, who works with her husband at his business, Broadway Foreign Auto Repair, said they took over an existing business, assumed its lease and were able to renew it. They have had no problems securing permits and have always found Beal responsive to maintenance requests.

O'Dell said she was not concerned about upkeep when Harvard took over the ownership because she feels "they want to keep it up in a way that would be consistent with their reputation."

But O'Dell said having Harvard as a landlord made her worry about the future.

"We don't know what their plans are," she said. "I'm not ready to retire yet. It's a good location for us."

Felix Shneur, owner of Superior Installations, also located at 100 Windom St., had similar concerns.

"I have no lease," he said. "What if they're going to tell me tomorrow or today, 30 days and you're out?"

Superior Installations is like both Fastnet and Sal's--a tenant-at-will in the building. Without leases, tenants-at-will can be evicted with a 30 day notice at the will of the landlord

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