My wife died in November of 2014, and we had a pretty complicated real estate situation: two apartments joined together, two separate leases. My wife was on one; she and I were on the other. After she died and her lease ran out, I got an eviction notice tacked on my door. I felt that was ridiculous, I had succession rights. We were both on both leases, and at one point, for reasons that I really don’t need to go into, my wife wanted to be the only one of the lease for the large apartment. It’s a three bedroom, two bath, with an 80FT terrace. We were paying very, very modest rent. There was also a studio attached to it. In the offering plan, it shows the apartments together. It shows the studio apartment as a bedroom attached to the three-bedroom apartment. It indicates that they are two units, I forget the exact language, but it’s for one residential use and while its one tax lot, the owner reserves the right to split it up into two tax lots. So, I went onto ACRIS and found that it was still one tax lot; during all of this they hadn’t done anything on their side to try to separate them whatsoever except it kept me evicted.
I asked my attorney for a recommendation and they suggested a firm that’s down in the Wall Street area that has a reputation of being very, very good. I went up and met with the people, gave them a retainer, and after a few days they said to me that I didn’t have a case and that what I was asking the was to dissemble, to basically lie. So we ended our relationship. I asked another attorney for a different recommendation and I was referred to Adam Leitman Bailey. I met with Dov Treiman and his attitude was, “This is good. You got a case. Let’s do this.”
My first contact was with Dov Treiman and we talked about the case, went over all the elements of it, what the risks were, what chances of success were, which he thought were very, very strong. Dov oversaw the case, and he was the one who wrote the documents, the most important document, the request for summary judgment. Massimo was more the litigation arm of it. He and I spent time preparing for the examination before trial- very thorough, very careful. He was very protective of me at the EBT and as a result I was being very, at his instruction, very reluctant to talk about anything personal. He sensed, Massimo sensed, that at some point they were putting me in a position that made me seem unattached, disinterested in what was going on with my wife’s health. So he called a time out, we went out and we talked a little bit more about it. We came back and he said, “I’ve instructed my client to be more open,” and I was. That I think, helped dispel any of the lingering sense that it wasn’t really a marriage. That was a very important element.
The landlord was insistent that their cause was just, that they had the right to evict me. I maintained that they didn’t because I was married and I lived in the apartment. They tried to prove that I wasn’t really married, but when push came to shove Dov presented a good EBT, examination before trial, and Massimo D’Angelo was the attorney who worked wit me on that, and what I felt very good about was that at one point during the examination, Massimo reversed his strategy in response to the questions that were being asked. So, his flexibility led to a very strong presentation of the case on our part.
I think that it’s unfair that they mounted a case that they knew they were going to lose trying to intimidate me, trying to out spend me, and I said, “I’m not giving in.” The firm backed me on it, and we pushed and pushed and eventually Dov wrote the summon asking for summary of judgment. It was a very simply syllogism: Paul Gellert is married, it’s one apartment, he has access to that apartment, and the law doesn’t say it has to be a happy marriage, it just has to be a marriage, ergo- he wins the case. And Dov was right, I won the case.
Absolutely recommend, no question about it. I thought it was knowledgeable. I never had a phone call unreturned, quickly. I’ve dealt with law firms before where it takes three days to get a call back, and they expect you to be grateful. I never felt like a hog in a wheel, nobody ever said to me, “you don’t know, we’re the lawyers.” They respected what I had to say, listened to my viewpoint and incorporated it in what they did. So, I felt a part of the team, which was very important to me.