Warren Estis, the veteran litigator who co-founded the legal practice that bills itself as New York City’s largest real estate-only law firm, died Wednesday. He was 73.
As a founding partner of Rosenberg & Estis, the attorney served as the lead litigator in cases for New York City’s developers and property owners.
“Warren was a distinguished member of New York City’s legal community and he will be remembered for his wit, intellect and tireless advocacy for the real estate industry,” firm co-founder Gary Rosenberg said in a statement Thursday. “We are saddened by his loss and share our heartfelt sympathies with his family.”
Estis and his partner founded their eponymous firm in 1975, representing owners of rent regulated buildings. The company grew to 85 attorneys in 2019, according to a count of the largest real estate practices by The Real Deal. That placed it third in New York City in terms of the number of real estate attorneys here — behind Fried, Frank, Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Clifford Chance, which are much larger, multidisciplinary practices.
Estis trained the firm’s litigators and oversaw that side of the business. Among his largest clients were the Related Companies, Rockrose Development, TF Cornerstone, J.D. Carlisle and Somerset Partners.
Rosenberg & Estis’ notable work included negotiating the joint venture between the Durst Organization and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build and lease One World Trade Center, according to the company’s website. It also represented Durst in a joint venture with Bank of America to develop One Bryant Park.
Estis was also a landlord. Along with his law partner, he owned a stake in about 35 residential rental condominiums.
A veteran of nasty squabbles, Estis knew how to take a punch as well as deliver one.
In 2012 the controversial restaurateur Joe Bastianich published a book, “Restaurant Man,” in which he used his sharp tongue on his perceived enemies. In the book, he called Estis “the fucking antichrist of of landlord-tenant lawyers.”
Estis took the barb in good humor, telling Commercial Observer he considered it a compliment.
“It is an honor to be in the prestigious club of those slammed by Bastianich,” he told the publication in a statement. “To have him mention me by name years after the case shows that I represented my client very well, and in many ways it is great marketing.”
Estis was still handling cases as recently as last summer. In August he represented ABS Partners in a rent dispute with one of its office tenants at 270 Madison Avenue.