Mr. Boyd and Mr. Economakis live in a building at war, a century-old five-story tenement torn by the peculiarities of New York real estate. Mr. Economakis is the landlord, and since 2003 has been trying to convert the building’s 15 rent-stabilized apartments into an 11,000-square-foot home for himself, his wife, their two children and a British bulldog named Leo. Mr. Boyd is one of nine remaining tenants, who pay $675 to $1,200 per month for one-bedroom apartments; his is on the third floor, sandwiched between spaces that the Economakis family currently occupies.
Landlord’s Dream Confronts Rent-Stabilized Lives
“Once we realized we wanted to make this building our home, nothing else compared,” said Mrs. Economakis, 36, who, along with her husband, works for her father’s company, Granite International Management, which manages about a dozen apartment buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “I love this building, and I love this neighborhood.”
Part of the charm, she said, is that the block includes the Hells Angels headquarters and Maryhouse, one of the city’s most enduring Roman Catholic missions for the homeless.
But the tenants contend that the home the Economakis family envisions is exactly what threatens the character of the neighborhood they claim to love. They see the Economakises as the embodiment of heartless gentrification, an extension of the Chase Bank branch that recently replaced the nearby Second Avenue Deli, members of the latte class with no concern for the working-class tradition of the neighborhood.
Behind the fancier windows are the owners’ quarters: Most of the building’s second floor has been remodeled into an open kitchen, living and dining space; an internal staircase leads down to a playroom and nanny’s room, or up to the couple’s bedroom and an adjacent one shared by their sons, ages 2 and 4. To get to their other space — a duplex that doubles as an office and accommodations for the Greek relatives who frequently visit — the family must go through the common hallway, with its peeling paint, old tin-plated adornments and cracking tile.