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How a New York City tenant is holding up a $70 million condo deal

Ahmet Nejat Ozsu won’t budge.

For 15 years, he has lived in the same apartment — a one-bedroom with an enviable private deck on the top floor of a building on New York’s Upper West Side.

So when a developer, the Naftali Group, bought the Manhattan building for $70 million in June and told tenants that they had to move, Ozsu made plans to stay. He could not be swayed with a buyout offer of $30,000, an eviction notice or even a $25 million lawsuit that Naftali recently filed against him. In April, the new landlord placed an industrial air filter outside Ozsu’s door, and the blower has been droning nonstop, driving him and his 13-year-old boxer mix, Penelope, up the wall.

Still, Ozsu won’t move. “It’s two things: I have the right to be here, and I have no place to go,” he said.

The Naftali Group says Ozsu is angling for a seven-figure payout and has put its multimillion-dollar investment in limbo, setting off a landlord-tenant stalemate that is the stuff of legend in New York City real estate. But the pandemic has added a new twist: A renter protection enacted to prevent evictions during the crisis could help drag out the standoff for years.

Under normal circumstances, Ozsu, 52, might have already been evicted from the building at 215 W. 84th St. His apartment is not rent stabilized, and like many of his neighbors, he was on a month-to-month lease that the new landlord was not obligated to renew.

But until recently, Ozsu, a freelance software engineer, was unemployed. In January, Ozsu applied for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, a state program created during the pandemic to help tenants pay overdue rent. In most cases, a tenant cannot be evicted while their application is open. If Ozsu’s request for aid is approved, he could be entitled to stay in the apartment for at least another year — time he says he’ll need to build up savings from a job he began in March to meet the income requirements of other rental buildings.

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