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Economakis’ Plea for Support and Solidarity in GoFundMe Campaign

November 22, 2019

NEW YORK – A GoFundMe campaign titled A Plea for Support and Solidarity was launched by Evel Economakis, a Greek-American high school history teacher living with his wife and two children in Rafina, Greece, the area devastated by fires in 2018. In his plea, Economakis describes how the situation reached the point where he had to organize this fundraiser to deal with the financial hardship caused by his cousin suing him over a letter written in support of tenants who had lived in the cousin’s building, the previously rent-regulated brownstone in New York’s East Village at 47 East Third Street, now converted into a private mansion.

Economakis said that his letter of support for the evicted tenants was accidnetally published with his name and without his permission in the New York Observer and he insists that everything in his letter is true. However, he was sued in criminal and civil court in Greece by his cousin, was found guilty and sentenced to eight months in prison with probation and ordered by the court to pay his wealthy cousin 18,000 euros for “moral damages.”

Spared by the flames of the fires, the Economakis’ home in Rafina may be lost to his cousin due to the court’s decision in favor of his cousin. Economakis noted that “libel laws, which have their roots in European monarchies and were created so that no one dares insult a king or queen, are much harsher in Greece,” adding that “the legal framework and state of affairs in Greece were more favorable for his aims against me.” Economakis points out that his cousin originally demanded 300,000 euros and “did not sue me in the United States… because very few people in Greece are aware of this case and suing me in NYC would have generated much unwanted media attention.”

The GoFundMe plea concludes with “If my family and I do nothing, the Greek state will send bailiffs to evict us and put our home up for auction. We won’t survive this without the help of people of good will like yourself.”

More information is available online: https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-plea-for-support-and-solidarity.

The text of Economakis’ GoFundMe page follows:

You may remember the sad story that began in New York City in 2003 concerning a rent-regulated brownstone in the East Village on 47 East Third Street.

The owner of the building, Alistair Economakis of Granite International Management, is my first cousin. Alistair and his wife Catherine Yatrakis (daughter of Columbia University Dean Kathryn Yatrakis and New York real estate tycoon Peter Yatrakis) successfully challenged existing owner occupancy laws.

In 2008, all the tenants were obliged to evacuate the building. Many of them had lived most of their lives there. Among the 15 evicted families was one with a disabled son, a tenant dying of AIDS, another suffering from cancer, and a family expecting their second child. One of the tenants, George Boyd, a Verizon telephone repairman, died of heart failure soon after he was evicted.

My cousin, Alistair Economakis, proceeded to gut and renovate the 6-floor, 60-room, 11,575 square foot structure. He transformed it into his own private mansion in Manhattan where he currently lives with his wife, children, live-in nanny and pedigree toy dog. All of this was perfectly legal and perfectly deplorable.

Shortly before the court decision in 2008 (which the tenants did not to appeal at the NY Supreme Court in Albany due to the exorbitant legal costs that had bled their life savings), I wrote an email to the tenants at 47 East Third Street expressing my sympathy and support. My letter, described by journalist Max Abelson (now of Bloomberg News) as “one of the most riveting letters in the history of letter-writing” was accidentally published with my name on it, and without my consent in the New York Observer. Following this, my cousin began criminal (!) and civil proceedings against me in Greece, where I live with my wife and two children (I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Greece).

Much the way Alistair Economakis and his Brooklyn-based real estate company, Granite International Management, operated against the tenants at 47 East Third Street, he has exhausted me financially (but not morally). Libel laws, which have their roots in European monarchies and were created so that no one dares insult a king or queen, are much harsher in Greece. The legal framework and state of affairs in Greece were more favorable for his aims against me. Everything I wrote in my letter of support to the tenants of 47 East Third Street is absolutely truthful. Nonetheless, in the criminal leg of the case, I was found guilty and sentenced to 8 months in prison (!) with probation. No sweat. I wear this conviction as a badge of honor. 

The language of my “crime” (my letter of support to the tenants) was English.  The “victim” of my crime (my cousin) lives in the U.S. Instead of New York, however, the “scene of the crime” was deemed to be Greece because it was assumed that the letter was sent from a computer in Athens.

Alistair Economakis sued me in Greece. He did not sue me in the United States. He did this because very few people in Greece are aware of this case and suing me in NYC would have generated much unwanted media attention.

Far more dangerous for my family than the “criminal” leg of the case is the civil leg, with my cousin Alistair originally demanding 300,000 Euros (1 Euro is currently worth about 1.1 U.S. dollars)!

Alistair Economakis and his father, my uncle Alexander, a London-based shipping magnate, have spared no time, money or effort hounding me. My uncle flew from London to Athens for every single court appearance, and my cousin arrived from the United States on at least three occasions. I don’t know how many millions Alistair Economakis is worth, but his company, Granite International Management, recently sold a building in NYC for $12 million to Bahram Hakakian.

Ever since 2008, my family’s life here in crisis-ridden Greece has been a struggle.  Each court appearance cost me about 300 Euros, over one third my monthly wages as a high school history teacher (PhD, Columbia University, 1994). And if my wife Julia worked before July 2018, she is currently unemployed.

I will forever be grateful to the tenants at 47 East Third Street who pitched in and sent me $700 back in 2009 so I could pay for the initial court fees. The legal process against me has lasted over 11 years!

Adding to my family’s woes was the terrible blow we were dealt a little over a year ago during the deadly fires of July 23, 2018 in the towns of Mati and Rafina (we have lived in Rafina since 2007). We survived, as did our home, but 103 people died a few hundred meters from our house. I described the awful event, which seriously affected my children’s psychological health, in an article for Dissent Magazine: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/how-syriza-lost-the-left-upcoming-greek-elections.

Our 80 square meter wooden prefab house was miraculously spared by the flames, but for five hours down by the stormy sea, where we ran with hundreds of others to save ourselves from the inferno, we were certain we had lost our home.  It appears now however that we will lose it to my relative. Ironically, Alistair’s father — my uncle Alexander Economakis — baptized my son, Nikiforos. He is my son’s “second father,” according to the Greek Church. All the same, he has no compunction watching his son drive his godson into the street. According to the court decision, which I just received, I must pay a total of 18,000 Euros to my cousin for “moral damages.” This is an exorbitant amount of money for me to pay.

If my family and I do nothing, the Greek state will send bailiffs to evict us and put our home up for auction. We won’t survive this without the help of people of good will like yourself.

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