David and Goliath saga unfolds at Naftali condo conversion
For Naftali Group, the conversion of an Upper West Side apartment building into condos has proved a tough row to hoe.
Last summer, some long-standing tenants refused to vacate 215 West 84th Street after the developer gave notice that it would not renew their leases.
Now a lone renter is blocking the project’s completion and costing Miki Naftali’s firm tens of millions in the process, the developer alleges in a lawsuit.
The company is suing Ahmet Ozsu, a penthouse unit tenant, for refusing to leave after his lease expired on the last day of 2021. Ozsu has lived in the building since 2007 and had been on a month-to-month lease since 2017, according to the complaint.
The developer’s suit claims Ozsu is refusing to leave “for the sole purpose of delaying the project to cause financial harm” to Naftali. The developer said the delays have cost it $25 million in lost rent and profits.
But how can one tenant bring a condo conversion to its knees?
Steven Wagner, an attorney who specializes in condo conversions, said Naftali’s choice conversion plan likely gifted the tenant his trump card.
The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 made conversions trickier. Before, an owner only had to get 15 percent of a building’s renters to agree to buy their units and he could evict the other tenants and sell theirs.
Now, developers must persuade 51 percent of a building’s renters to buy their units and can convert the market-rate units as their tenants’ leases expire. Tenants of rent-stabilized units can remain, giving them leverage to negotiate hefty buyouts.
But there is another option, one that Naftali appears to be pursuing.