The condo market is surging, a potential boon for holdouts like Mr. Ozsu. Manhattan had the most apartment sales of any first quarter in 33 years, with nearly twice as many new development sales as in the same period last year, according to a recent report by brokerage Douglas Elliman.
Similar conditions have led to a small number of eye-popping settlements for holdout tenants. In 2005, Herbert Sukenik, a longtime resident of the Mayflower Hotel, on the way to 15 Central Park West, a luxury tower, negotiated a $ 17 million buyout, plus the right to live at a nearby two-bedroom apartment overlooking the park for $ 1 a month. His lawyer, David Rozenholc, who specialized in tenant holdout cases, collected one third of the settlement.
“I’ve settled three cases already this year, which is a quick pace,” Mr. Rozenholc said, noting that the pandemic has not stopped developers from proceeding with ambitious projects.
Developers sometimes agree to large tenant payouts because they can be less costly than postponing construction, said Steven Kirkpatrick, a partner at Romer Debbas, who primarily represents property owners but is not involved in the West 84th Street case.
“The theme of this is delay, delay, delay,” he said, noting that prolonged court motions and procedures could allow Mr. Ozsu to stay in the apartment for one or two years.
Mr. Scharf, a lawyer for the developer, said Mr. Ozsu was simply biding his time. In an affidavit filed in housing court in April, a member of the property owner’s legal team said they heard Mr. Bailey wager that he could keep his client in the apartment for five years. (Mr. Bailey said such testimony “is a lie” – and that he does not gamble.)
“Through counsel, he has made it clear he’s holding out for a ransom of north of a million dollars,” Mr. Scharf said.