“If you have a case, Steve will win it for you…” Charlotta Janssen, Owner of Chez Oskar
My name is Charlotta Jensen. I am an artist designer and a restaurant owner in Brooklyn, now in Bed Stuy. And I know, Steve, from I think I met him in 2005, I was in a difficult situation, I had rented a space open a restaurant had a good lease, I thought everything was okay. Halfway through building and construction, I find out that the building is going into foreclosure. And I think I don’t have a hope or prayer. The friend of mine, who was an attorney who helped me get the lease said, Just get out of it. And I thought, no, there’s got to be some way. And so I asked a friend of mine who’s an assistant district attorney said, this is the guy. And so I met with him. And we looked through the paperwork, and he said, This is a case you got this. Chez Oscar, I opened in 1998. So a while back, Steve also helped me extend my lease there with a very volatile landlord. And then when I kind of knew the love was over, I thought, you know, I need to find a place and move us. And I need to own it’s a very obscure corner, but it’s very close to the A train. So I thought, you know, as long as I get my doors open, I can get there. And it was very complicated. There was even a tenant still in there. Halfway through, I find out that he was a drug lord. I thought, this is way out of my league. But Steve really helped me through it. And it was a lot of back and forth, we had a lot of days in court. And what was happening at the same time, it was so stressful, because I was building in half of it, I was building the restaurant. The other half, I had this tenant who had it kind of a weird lease that was really hard to nail down was not here, not there. And I was at the same time getting evicted. So Steve was with me in court every two weeks. And once I was getting evicted, and once I was evicting, but he helped me also cut it short, you know, basically, with my landlord saying, listen, we’re gonna be out, but you need to give us more time. We can always find another flaw in your eviction notice, you know me, and he knew him. And he said, Yeah, okay, let’s, let’s cut this short and, and then we set a date. And so that helped me out. With the other case, we had really meticulously gone through everything like we were ready to go to court. But the lucky thing was that when finally a judge went to look at our, the eviction, and the reason why and all of this, basically they did not fulfill the the needs of this wishy washy lease. And Steve pinpointed pointed out which ones they didn’t fulfill. He was very, very calm. And what was great was that I felt really well prepared. He said, Okay, what are your main points? You know, what is your argument about? Like, why are you evicting these people? I was ready. You know, if we were going to go to court that day, we were ready. We said, Okay, we’re going to go to court. And the great thing was the judge said, Listen, I hate issuing summary judgment. But your argument is weak. You know, yes, Steve was amazing in court. But you know, what’s even better? Is he prepared me. Well, he helped me find my point of view. Because you can, you can be right, and you can just be a little low. You know, somebody says, You’re right, you’re right. But what are you going to say? How are you going to say that? How are they going to understand that? It was it was just stunning, that moment, when we got summary judgment, because we had fought so hard for it, I was so broke, I was trying so hard to get the restaurant open, I barely slept. And Steve was going like, like, we were speaking and he said, this is like someone grading your papers, you know, and he was just really involved. You know, I’m small potatoes for you know, what probably the other cases that he deals with. Having a, a tenant with like a half assed lease who’s very aggressive, who’s always trying to undermine you all the time and writing you certified mail – and you need to have like someone strong on your side who makes you feel, you know, not intimidated, you know, I am lucky I had gone to the school of Steve. What impressed me also was that he explained to me, what was the strength and what was the weakness of my case, He makes like having legal issues actually, you could almost say fun. And so I got really good coaching to like how to deal with these situations, you know, just be endlessly patient, and then get the fuck out of there. Even like the first day when we met when he went through my case and looked at each part of it. You just felt like someone with knowledge is looking at this and opening your eyes and explain to you what your options are. You know, you don’t feel belittled. And you also don’t feel like someone’s you know, blowing smoke up your ass. You feel like someone is educating you as to where you stand legally with this situation. I guess I’ve had a few legal situations. I had aloft in Manhattan, and I lost it, I was part of a suit and we thought we could get commercial, we could thought we could get rent stabilized. And that ended up not happening. And basically others threw me under the bus and I had about $100,000 judgment against me. And I could not pay for it. Steve helped me negotiate something, a settlement, that worked for me and work for them. As much as it was a kind of a defeat, it wasn’t a complete defeat. And it wasn’t, you know, this giant judgment, and it was something that I could do, and something they could live with. I think he’s a very good negotiator. It helped us both move forward. Because, you know, when the relationship ends, you know, time is the most precious thing we have. If you’re in a really difficult situation, it comes to, you know, a situation where you’re a tenant, or you feel disenfranchised, or you just don’t know your rights, and you can’t, you have to, if you want to make an educated decision, you know, Steve will let you know where you stand with your case. And you might, you might feel a lot less disenfranchised. And and if you have a case, and if it’s winnable, Steve can win it for you. A friend of mine, she had a situation where she had this rabid landlord, she had a very hard time with him, and it was back and forth. And Steve helped calm down the situation. The guy actually knew him and was even scared of him. But like my landlord was scared of him too. And she felt so empowered and so happy that she could now turn things around on her terms, you know, that it was not just, landlords aren’t just God, there’s rules they have to abide by too. I also have to like, I have a lot of female restaurant colleagues, and you have to really educate yourself as to where your rights are, and what you can do, you know, I wouldn’t be where I am without Steve, I wouldn’t have risked trying to move my business into a very difficult real estate object that turned into a beautiful restaurant. And he helped me you know, navigate getting evicted and evicting and purchasing with an SBA loan really elegantly and really effectively.