South Beach Feud Heats Up

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

South Beach Feud Heats Up:

Sherbrooke hotel owner files suit against owner of Mango’s

The feud between Mitch Novick, owner of the Sherbrooke Apartments, and David Wallack, owner of Mango’s Tropical Café, has escalated. Novick filed suit last week in a Miami-Dade County court claiming he has suffered “personal injury and property damage” as a result of “repeated disposal, washing, throwing, and draining of liquid wastewater, detergents and other chemicals from the Mangos restaurant property into the alleyway” between the Sherbrooke and Mango’s. The Sherbrooke, an all-suites hotel at 901 Collins Avenue, sits directly behind Mango’s which is located at 900 Ocean Drive in Miami Beach.
 
The suit includes the following video exhibit purporting to show the discharges. 

 


"These events occurred daily for years without abatement until only in the most recent months, and only after government environmental regulators got involved,” the suit states. “The liquids were disposed negligently, with gross negligence, and even intentionally over this time period as it provided an inexpensive means of elimination of restaurant and cleaning waste by Mangos.” The court document claims the disposal has taken place “incessantly and for at least the past four years.”
 
“Its occurrence was either ordered by Defendant Wallack or was done with his knowledge and consent. This chemical waste has contaminated Plaintiffs’ property and has likely contributed a stream or similar contamination into adjacent properties all the way to the waters which surround this part of Miami Beach,” according to the filing.

Novick and Wallack made news in the summer of 2017 when Wallack accused Novick of stealing towels from Mango’s but prosecutors declined to press charges citing the “de minimis nature” of the alleged theft and noting the case involved “a victim and defendant on opposite sides of a local political dispute” according to a Miami Herald article at the time. Novick has become a strong proponent of ending liquor sales early on Ocean Drive as a means to curtail what he calls the “carnival-like circus atmosphere” of the street. He regularly posts videos on social media from the cameras at the Sherbrooke showing fights, alleged drug deals, and general loud behavior. Wallack was one of the leaders of the 2017 campaign to defeat a referendum restricting alcohol sales. Voters ultimately rejected it by a margin of almost two to one. 
 
Regarding the towel incident, Novick’s lawsuit claims “abuse of process by Wallack against Novick pertaining to his use of Miami Beach police to respond to his spurious allegation of crime against Novick which had no supportable basis in fact and which resulted in arrest and detainment of Novick.”
 
The suit says Wallack was aware Novick had used Mango’s towels with the permission of Mango’s employees “to clean up waste dumped by Mangos onto Plaintiffs’ property and the alley.” After Wallack learned Novick was seen videotaping “the release of pollutants into the alley way,” the suit states, “Wallack made a false police report” resulting in Novick’s arrest, “simply a means for Wallack to harass and with intent to coerce Plaintiff Novick with his Wallack’s [sic] power and influence,” according to the court document.
 
Novick “spend approximately 9 hours in police custody for this accusation,” the suit states. “The arrest embarrassed and humiliated Novick. It harmed his reputation. It was unjustified and without merit.”
 
Wallack, the suit says, “has an ulterior motive and/or purpose in pursuing and persisting in the pursuit of the Miami Beach prosecution” of Novick over the towels “to intimidate, harass and coerce Plaintiff Novick into conduct which does not oppose Defendant Wallack’s improper or illegal business activities on Miami Beach.”
 
Novick who lives in the Sherbrooke claims in the suit that he “is subjected to living in chemically and microbially contaminated conditions, both within the Plaintiffs’ Units and in the common areas of the apartment property through which he travels, and which continue to contaminate the real property throughout the Sherbrooke property.” 
 
“Plaintiff Novick has and likely will suffer adverse health consequences” as a result of exposure to “microbes and chemistries which are persistent and volatile and which contaminate his property and that of the common areas.” The suit does not indicate if there are any visible conditions or test results to substantiate the claims.
 
The filing says, “The exposures and system stresses are believed to have likely caused, or substantially contribute[d]” to Novick’s developing heart disease. “He will require medical monitoring over the remaining years of his life to ascertain and respond to his organ system damage as it appears over time.”
 
The amount of his “future medical expenses as a result of the Defendant’s conduct” is “presently unascertained or determined pending expert medical and economic evaluation.”
 
“Remediation of the affected property will be exceedingly difficult and costly and may require the excavation of the soils on which the building of Sherbrooke Apartments are located.” The suit claims any contaminated soil would need to “be removed for incineration” and “new soil would be required to refill” the excavated area. “The exact expense for this process has not yet been calculated and requires expertise which has not yet been retained.”
 
Novick is seeking a jury trial to recover damages for the repair and remediation costs, loss of property value, and past and future medical expenses. He is also seeking damages for harm to his reputation “which subjects him to loss or potential loss of business income and opportunity” as a result of the 2017 arrest.
 
In a precursor to the lawsuit, attorney Kent Harrison Robbins sent an email to Wallack on March 1st of this year with the video that is now an exhibit in the court filing. “As a result of your years of daily waste water and toxic chemical discharges from the rear of Mangos Café in the Collins Court (Alleyway from 9th to 10th Street, between Collins Ave. and Ocean Dr.), the soils along the alleyway and adjacent property have been contaminated,” Robbins wrote. The email concluded “If you would like to amicably address this contamination, please have your attorney call me.”
 
Novick declined to comment on the suit on the advice of counsel. He is represented by The McKee Law Group, a Davie firm that specializes in personal injury, environmental exposure, and wrongful death cases, according to their website. 
 
Wallack had not seen the suit when we contacted him via email.  After it was forwarded to him by RE:MiamiBeach, he did not provide a comment.
 
The Sherbrooke, built in 1948, is an “all suites hotel” where guests can “Enjoy clean, comfortable, and quiet” accommodations, according to the hotel's website. “We’re not a party hotel,” it notes in bold letters.

 
Photo courtesy Sherbrooke Hotel
 

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