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Columbia Spectator Staff

With no progress on his complaint against Columbia, Floridita owner Ramon Diaz has taken further action to get his case in front of the courts. Last Thursday, Diaz filed both an Affidavit of Emergency and a Memorandum of Law to urge courts to pick up his legal complaint against the University. He claims that Columbia did not properly deal with asbestos exposed from previous renovations on his new restaurant location on the corner of 12th Avenue and 125th Street. The Memorandum of Law outlines Diaz's complaint and asks that the court "grant the request for preliminary injunctions" and set a court date for proceedings to begin. An Affidavit of Emergency is a motion for the case to be addressed immediately, on the grounds that there is a pressing reason it cannot wait. Diaz has already faced several setbacks in his legal efforts. The complaint itself was officially served to the president and trustees of Columbia in February. After that, it was assigned a judge, and Diaz was supposed to appear in court on April 6. However, according to Diaz, the judge handling the case was dismissed just before the court appearance was set, and the case was reassigned. "My attorney has spoken with the new clerk to see where we stand, but it seems that the last judge left such a high volume of cases that he is inundated with paperwork," he said. "They don't know when we can appear." Diaz's lawyer could not be reached for comment. If the judge recognizes the motion, Diaz could move up on the roster. In the meantime, the status of his restaurant remains unchanged. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection's "stop-work order" for the property, which bars any unauthorized personnel from entering the building, is still in effect, preventing Diaz from conducting any renovations on the space. Diaz claims he is also currently paying rent on the property, despite having been served with default notices in February. "I have the 40-odd employees working who are still unemployed, I'm paying rent, and I'm not able to operate. It's a triple whammy," Diaz said. "I'm going nowhere." According to Diaz, he should receive a response about the memorandum by the end of the week, although so far, he has heard "not an iota." When he initially filed the complaint, Diaz had hoped the issue would be resolved quickly. "I thought within 30 days we would be in front of a judge," Diaz said. "Columbia can turn this into years of legal ragging. It certainly can." The University does not comment on ongoing litigation, but it has firmly denied Diaz's allegations. In a statement to Spectator in February, La-Verna Fountain, associate vice president of construction business services and communications, said, "The University has met all of its obligations with respect to providing the space to the tenant for fit-out. Instead of meeting his obligations, Mr. Diaz has chosen to take action against the University." Diaz said he hopes the case will be resolved as quickly as possible. "I've been out of business for over a year," he said. "The longer we're gone, the quicker it's going to be forgotten, and my customer base will scatter."

Ramon Diaz Floridita