BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Councilmember Rosie Mendez was speaking at the rally in front of 50, 54 and 58 E. Third St. last week — where leases for market-rate tenants in 17 apartments recently weren’t renewed, causing anxiety and speculation as to what the landlord’s intent is.
As she spoke, Mendez pointed across the street at 47 E. Third St. — the site of a long and bitter landlord-tenant fight that started back in 2002.
“When we see buildings like that one being emptied out of our neighbors, we don’t know when it’s going to happen to us!” Mendez declared angrily.
At least one thing that wasn’t known — or wasn’t believed — is now known to block residents: The Economakises have finally moved into 47 E. Third St. In an e-mail to The Villager, Alistair Economakis wrote, “Catherine’s and my intentions to make 47 E. Third St. our home were always true and genuine as is now evident.”
To recap, the Economakises had moved to evict the 15-unit, five-story building’s former tenants under the “owner occupy” provision, until the holdouts — realizing they couldn’t win in court — eventually relented and took buyouts. Earlier on, in a compromise offer, trying to avoid a lengthy legal battle, the Economakises had been willing to allow tenants to stay in six apartments in the building’s front half as long as the Economakises could have the back half, but the tenants, showing solidarity (three other apartments would have had to have been vacated), refused the offer.
If the Economakises had evicted the tenants under “owner occupancy,” then they would have been legally required to live there for at least three years. Yet because the situation ultimately wasn’t resolved in court, the landlords aren’t obligated to reside there. Still, the former tenants and housing activists had all been skeptical the Economakises would actually return to 47 E. Third St. after the lengthy legal fight’s conclusion, followed by the building’s two-and-a-half-year gut renovation to transform it into a luxury mansion.
However, the Economakises, including their children, indeed did move into the place about three weeks ago.
“I saw the moving truck. They had boxes and they were moving them in,” said Ursula Kinzel, a former 47 E. Third St. tenant who managed to find a new apartment nearby.
Mel, a local dog walker who lives on the block, said she recently witnessed Alistair receive some FedEx packages, and had even chatted with him a few times, and he’s actually a nice guy.
According to Mendez, the Economakises are leasing out part of the ground-floor space to a medical facility. However, the councilmember pointedly noted, in her understanding, the landlords were denied in their effort to get a new curb cut installed for an intended garage to serve the medical facility.
“They asked for a curb cut for the medical offices,” Mendez said. “They had a problem — it was based on the zoning — and it was turned down.”
Mendez added it’s also just hard, period, to get a new curb cut nowadays.
Word is an elevator has also been added inside the place — but the plans reportedly always included one.
Alistair Economakis declined to comment on the various aspects of the renovation — including the curb cut, or lack thereof.