Does a landlord have the right to clear out a tenement for his personal use? Since 2003, Alistair and Catherine Economakis—the progeny of a Greek shipping magnate and a New York real-estate family, respectively—have been battling to evict the tenants from their six-story, fifteen-unit rent-stabilized tenement at 47 East 3rd Street. The Economakises are working off a loophole in renter-protection laws that allows landlords to live in an apartment in a building they own. David Pultz, a film-lab worker who’s lived in the tenement 28 years, calls the couple “grown-up spoiled brats,” and says, “We see this as a precedent-setting case.” Stephen Dobkin, an attorney for the tenants, says, “I’m worried that if the court says that a landlord can empty an entire building for his own use, that’s a bad precedent.” The Economakises have cleared out six units so far. In March, the State Supreme Court ruled that the remaining tenants couldn’t be evicted; an appeals-court ruling is expected shortly after the New Year.
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