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January 10th, 2006

TENANTS OF 47 EAST 3rd STREET FIGHT MASS EVICTION ATTEMPT

by David Pultz

Since the Summer of 2003?Ǭ East Village tenants at?Ǭ 47 East Third Street have been waging a legal battle against mass eviction with landlords who claim to want to turn their 15 unit apartment building into a mansion for themselves. The landlords are using a loophole under the rent stabilization law for “owner use” in an attempt to empty out the entire 11,600 square foot, 60 room building. The tenants believe this action is a scam and an illegal assault on affordable housing in New York City.”

“The landlords, Alistair and Catherine Economakis, own or control some two dozen apartment buildings in New York City through Granite International Management in Brooklyn. The company is owned by Ms. Economakis’ father, Peter Yatrakis. The Economakises currently live on an entire floor of a family owned brownstone in the toney Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn.?Ǭ In legal documents, the landlord makes claim to want to turn the 105 year old tenement at 47 East 3rd St. into a single family residence with 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a gym with shower, a library, a nanny suite and a two-story living room with an overhanging walkway. The Economakises acquired the building in 2001 at drastically below market price by taking advantage of a City tax lien against the tenement, then bringing the building through a bankruptcy proceeding, and finally transferring it from a family controlled company to themselves as individual owners.”

“Owner occupancy law can allow owners in need of a place to live the right to refuse to renew a tenant’s lease and acquire “one or more” apartments for themselves. The mass eviction underway at 47 East 3rd St. is one of the first buildings in which a landlord has attempted to use this loophole to claim an entire tenement for personal use. Residents at 47 East 3rd St. and their supporters believe the Economakises real goal is to remove the building from rent stabilization and charge market-rate rents, or to sell the emptied building.?Ǭ The law for owner-use states that owners must live in any recovered apartments for a minimum of three years before being able to re-rent or sell the unit. Unfortunately, the State or City does not keep track of abuses of this provision, and the law provides few legal remedies to the evicted tenant, and virtually no penalties to the landlord, if abuses  such as a landlord not moving in at all  should occur. In any event, the tenants strongly believe the entire action by the landlord is entirely illegal and contrary to the intention of the law.”

“The tenants at 47 East 3rd St. are, by and large, middle to moderate income working people. Many of them have lived in the building more than 10 years, and some nearly 30 years. In fall of 2004 the case was brought to New York State Supreme Court, where Justice Paul Feinman imposed an injunction that temporarily barred further eviction proceedings against tenants with expiring leases. With great expense to themselves, the residents, from the beginning, formed a tenant association, hired an attorney and have bravely fought this scam. They expect to see the case eventually brought into the State Appellate Court.”

“The case has also drawn significant media attention, with articles appearing in The Villager, The Independent, and The New York Daily News; and on June 26, 2005, the cover story for the?Ǭ New York Times Real Estate section. The tenants also organized a rally on June 25, 2005 in front of their building, drawing many supporters and politicians, as well as coverage by local television outlets.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler states, “The owner-occupancy provision was never intended to enable landlords to pursue such ruthless mass evictions. I commend and support the tireless efforts of the residents of 47 East 3rd St. to save their homes. This is not just their fight: a victory for them will be a victory for thousands of other rent regulated residents throughout the City who are at risk of losing their homes through this loophole in the law.” Community Board 3 in the East Village calls the landlords’ mansion plan, “an obviously contrived plan,” and State Assemblymember Deborah Glick adds in support, “At a time when the City is struggling to keep working class and middle class New Yorkers from being forced out of the neighborhoods that they helped to build, mass evictions, such as this one, run counter to preserving a sense of community. I am proud to stand with the tenants of 47 East 3rd St. in their fight to save their homes and neighborhood and preserve affordable housing for all New Yorkers.”

For further information on this situation, you may contact FRIENDS OF 47 EAST 3rd STREET via email at 47e3St@gmail.com

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