Saved by the pandemic

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“They won’t move me.” This is what Ahmet Nejat Ozsu, a 52-year-old software engineer, told the real estate company that wants to kick him out of his apartment at 215 W. 84th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in order to remodel or tear down the property and build a new and luxurious apartment condominium on it.

The company developing the project, Naftali Group, has already convinced the rest of the 128 neighbors to leave. But Ozsu does not give in. “It is my right to continue here and I have nowhere to go,” he says in the interview with The New York Times, who has uncovered the case. The right of permanence to which the protagonist alludes is not due to his rental contract, which under normal conditions was renewed year after year and would not prevent his eviction, but rather to the exception established in the state aid program for tenants approved as a result of the the pandemic.

The real estate group tried to persuade Ozsu with an offer of $30,000, which he flatly rejected. Next, the company installed an air filter next to the apartment’s front door that he says makes as loud a noise as a plane flying overhead 24 hours a day. Him and his boxer bitch Penelope , 13 years old, they take it as they can. Ozsu cares less about the camera that has also been placed in the corridor, facing his door.

The company that plans to transform the building spent 70 million on its purchase and has already convinced the other 127 neighbors

The company, through its lawyer David Scharf, assures that the filter is for the good of the tenant’s health, although there have been no works or other actions near the apartment that suggest a problem of this type. As for the camera, it would respond to a “general security issue”, added the legal representative. Ozsu and his own lawyer, Adam Leitman Bailey, maintain that both “security” elements are part of an intimidation tactic. And the company, naturally, denies it: “There is no harassment, period,” says Sharf.

Naftali Group invested 70 million dollars in the purchase of the building, last June. He then informed the tenants that they had to leave. All but Ozsu agreed in one way or another. He was unemployed when the eviction was brought up. And he decided to take advantage of the program established by the state of New York to help tenants pay back rent during the pandemic.

As a general rule, the program prevents the eviction of a citizen covered by it while their application is open. And, if the petition is approved, Ozsu could have the right to stay in the apartment for at least another year: the time he says he needs to, thanks to a job he started in March, earn enough money to meet the income requirements that They require you in other rental flats.

The Naftalí group does not believe that the rebellious tenant really has the right to remain in his home, located on the top floor of the farm, with 65 square meters and for which he paid 3,350 dollars a month until his unemployment situation prevented him from continuing to face the expense and forced him to apply for state aid. The company filed a $25 million lawsuit against Ozsu before making the $30,000 offer.

Last week, the man tried to pay the $13,600 he owed for the monthly payments he could not afford and accumulated before submitting the application for assistance. The property’s legal team advanced that he would reject the payment, according to case documents. The company maintains that what Ozsu is seeking is compensation of more than a million dollars. To which the resister replies that he is only exercising his rights to remain in the house – where he has lived for 15 years – under the aid program.

The lawsuit prevents the Naftali group from starting the development of its plan for the property, which has not yet been detailed. The site could support a tower of at least 64 meters. And, as seen in other actions of the company in the area, it is most likely that the current construction will be demolished to build a new one. In the neighboring number 86 of the same street, corner of Madison Avenue, the company is erecting an apartment towers whose prices will range between 8.5 and 40 million dollars.

Ahmet Nejat Ozsu’s pulse is about rights and about money, a lot of money, which is what will count most in the end.

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