Brooklyn Tabernacle sues upstairs neighbor over pipes leaking ‘foul liquids’ into community space

brooklyn tabernacle damage
Brooklyn Tabernacle is suing its upstairs neighbor, Dallas BBQ, alleging the eatery has allowed wastewater and grease to leak into their basement community space for years.
Photos courtesy of the Brooklyn Tabernacle

A church in Downtown Brooklyn is taking legal action against a neighboring restaurant in an effort to put an end to “persistent and disruptive leaks” that it says has caused foul liquid and food grease to rain down into its community space, causing millions of dollars in damage.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle is pursuing a mandatory injunction for repairs to be made to the pipes that have caused a deluge of sewage, grease, and wastewater to rain down from Dallas BBQ, which is located above the church’s basement recreational space at 180 Livingston St., according to a recent motion filed in Kings County Supreme Court.

The multi-cultural, non-denominational church said it has unsuccessfully sought to stop the “vile liquids” from seeping into its space through “fruitless negotiations” with the owners of the building, Thor 180 Livingston LLC — a subsidiary of Thor Equities, which is owned by Coney Island mogul Joe Sitt — and the tenant, Dallas BBQ. 

exterior of Brooklyn Tabernacle
The exterior of the Brooklyn Tabernacle building at 190 Livingston Street. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

“Foul-smelling and putrid liquids continue to pour down from Dallas BBQ into our community space, which has caused our congregation frustration, loss, and hardship over many years,” said Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Brian Pettrey. “We are extremely concerned that children who use the space for Sunday programs, athletics, and other activities could be exposed to hazardous waste leaking down from the restaurant. Because of the ongoing wrongdoing of Thor and Dallas BBQ, who refuse to remedy the leaks, we sadly have no other option but to take this matter to court to protect our children and congregants.”

The Brooklyn Tabernacle has a congregation of about 10,000 people who attend the weekly services at its main location at 17 Smith St. and the more recently refurbished community space near Fulton Mall. It is also home to the six-time Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Pettrey said that the “absolutely disgusting” issue has been disturbing the church’s ministry and youth programs since Brooklyn Tabernacle took over the space in 2019, but that the leaks have gotten progressively worse in the last year.

He said the issue reached a breaking point over the summer, when the gym and theater were rendered unusable for weeks due to persistent leaks of greasy wastewater.

“For approximately three weeks this summer, the largest space used to host children’s Sunday services was unusable, filled not with children, but with vile liquid containing grease, chunks of what appeared to be human waste, and with bacterial counts consistent with sewage,” read court documents. “A mere week later, wastewater poured into the gym specially designed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle to support its programming for children and young adults. A few weeks later, additional leaks began in both of these spaces, and there are currently ongoing leaks that have not been remedied despite repeated requests to Thor and Dallas BBQ. Over the past three months alone, at least a half dozen leaks have infiltrated the Church Unit from above.”

clogged pipe in Brooklyn Tabernacle
An image taken during an inspection of the pipes shows grease built up in the system. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Tabernacle

According to court filings, the church recently hired engineers to inspect the plumbing leading down from Dallas BBQ who discovered “extensive grease build-up in every pipe they inspected” and “pipes so congested that the engineers lost visibility into them because the camera became submerged in grease.”

Brooklyn Tabernacle said the leaks are also detracting and distracting church employees from their regular duties as they are “constantly anticipating and responding to problem, hiring consultants and cleaners, and scrambling to relocate and scrambling to relocate and salvage what they can of scheduled worship events.”

The case is expected to be heard on Oct. 11. Representatives for Thor 180 Livingston St. and Dallas BBQ did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

“As a congregation, we just want to be able to do what we’re called to do, which is to do the best that we can to love the community that we’re in and serve them,” Pettrey said. “Our hope is that this thing gets put to bed and we can be neighbors and just get on with our life. We’re just sorry that it has to get to this place where we have to take a position like this to try and force somebody’s hand to be a good neighbor.”