By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"Our evidence is that his father or grandfather was the tenant of record and that [Sam Burrell] obfuscated that by signing checks in their name," says Kossoff. "He continued that fiction for a long period of time, then got married and lived with his wife in upstate New York and got divorced and now he's back here to live in the premises."
"That is completely wrong," says Burrell's lawyer, Rick Lunenfeld. "The checks were in Sam's name. He has a similar name as his father and grandfather, and the landlord didn't pay attention." He says the upstate property is a vacation home that Burrell's wife (he is separated, not divorced) got in 1993. "They even called her to testify against him," says Lunenfeld. "They're willing to take all sorts of measures to get him out because they have such a financial interest. But I don't see how they can win. We have very clear succession rights."
Sitzer says the tenant association has assisted five neighbors who ultimately convinced the landlord of their right to remain without going to court.
Says Putterman, "He's going after people who he knows very well have legitimate succession rights. He's trying to frighten them and wear them down. And the kind of documentation he's asking for is ridiculous. It's the difference between acquiring information and being relentless.
"He's led people to believe that he's hired private investigators to pull records from Con Ed and the phone company, all sorts of places. He treats them as if they were criminals, when in fact they have every right to be here."