BY BARRY PADDOCK
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Saturday, June 21st 2008, 12:30 PM
(Barry Paddock is an intern at the Daily News.)
Five years ago, my landlords, a young married couple, announced they wanted to live in my apartment.
The landlords, Alistair and Catherine Economakis, both full-time real estate agents, brought eviction proceedings against me and my neighbors in all 15 apartments in our six-story, fully-occupied East Village tenement.
In eviction papers, they laid out a plan to combine our cramped but beloved rent-stabilized apartments into a suburban-style mansion. Apartments on my floor would be demolished and replaced by a hanging walkway overlooking their new two-story living room.
Their dream home would also include a home office, den, playroom, nanny's suite and gym with its own shower. It would have five bedrooms and six bathrooms, even though they had only one child. (They've since had another.)
My neighbors and I were in disbelief. Friends scoffed that such an outlandish plan could result in our eviction.
State housing law says a landlord can reclaim "one or more" rent-regulated apartments to live in. But a case like ours, claiming an entire tenement for personal use is unprecedented. Our lawyers argued that legislators never intended landlords to use the law to remove an entire building from the rental market.
My neighbors and I sued in state Supreme Court to block our evictions in Housing Court and won in 2005. But then our landlords appealed and won in a higher court. And last week, after five years of legal wrangling, the state's highest court gave the landlords the green light to return to Housing Court and carry on with the mass eviction.
In Housing Court we can still challenge whether our landlords are acting in "good faith" and intend to live in the building for at least three years, as required by law. Many of my neighbors have lived in the building for 30 years. They include a retired phone company employee, a professional calligrapher, and a teacher's assistant who works in a local school and has a mentally disabled adult son who has lived in the building his entire life.
The Economakises purchased our building, 47-49 E. Third St., through a city tax lien 2003 for under $1 million. They estimate it will take another $350,000 to create their mansion. That means they will have a six-story downtown mansion for about the average price of a Manhattan apartment. Our landlords are the son of Greek shipping magnate and daughter of a Columbia University dean.