With real estate speculators converging on East New York and Cypress Hills looking to cash in on recent re-zoning, City Council Member Rafael Espinal Jr. (Bushwick, East New York, Oceanhill-Brownsville Cypress Hills) yesterday announced he’s looking to create a Cease and Desist Zone so that neighborhood homeowners can opt into a “Do Not Solicit” list where violating real estate agents will risk fines and losing broker licenses.
The announcement came as Espinal led a rally that included a number of local elected officials, homeowners and advocates against speculators who canvass homes and erect “home buyout” and “quick evic” signs as property values and rents rise in the increasingly popular neighborhood. The group marched through the East New York/Cypress Hills area, tearing down 13 signs posted throughout the neighborhood promoting evictions and home buyouts.
“Today homeowners and advocates in Brooklyn put unscrupulous speculators on notice,” said Espinal. “Our community is sick and tired of the unwanted solicitations of our homes. We have been harassed by unwanted and deceptive offers of cash for our homes, received non-stop offers about how we can be “helped” in selling our property and paying our mortgages. It is time to put a stop to these unwanted and devious advances. These solicitations prey on so many elderly, low-income, and financially strained homeowners who deserve to not only live peacefully in their homes, but also, to receive the support they need to grow and raise their families in our community.”
The predatory investors are coming in large part due to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan, which allows for developers to build in greater density in exchange for more affordable housing.
East New York is the first neighborhood to get the rezoning, which has driven up property values and rents resulting in predatory investors harassing vulnerable homeowners with offers to “buy homes for cash.” They are making repeated calls, leaving flyers, knocking on doors and sending texts to low-income, senior or monolingual Spanish-speaking homeowners.
As part of the re-zoning Espinal, along with the City’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), and various legal service providers will launch a Homeowner Help Desk to provide dedicated legal and programmatic support to homeowners facing distress with their finances, mortgages, or are the victim of scams. The Center will open in early 2017.
Joining Espinal at the rally yesterday were a coalition of over 60 protesters along with Public Advocate James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Senator Martin Dilan.
“The American Dream of homeownership can turn into a nightmare when scammers target homeowners. The action we are taking today will send a clear message that East New York is not for sale,” said James. “We will stand united against these predators, and ensure that homeowners have the proper education to steer clear of deed theft scams.”
Also lending vocal support was Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (Crown Heights, Flatbush, Sheepshead Bay) and Brownsville Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.
“Brooklyn has always thrived as a community where people from around the world could start their lives in United States – working hard, raising families, and pursuing the American Dream. But efforts to remove long-time residents by harassment, evictions, and real estate scams now threaten that legacy. I commend Council Member Rafael Espinal and the Coalition for Community Advancement on their distinguished leadership in the effort to hold landlords accountable and end the harassment of community residents,” said Clarke.
“I stand with homeowners and tenants as we fight against greedy and unscrupulous landlords that use illegal actions such as evictions, harassments, or scams against the community. We are here standing shoulder to shoulder with homeowners, tenants, and housing activist and advocates as we fight for our rights,” said Walker.
Among the residents at the rally was Moraina Gonzalez, a long-time Cypress Hills tenant. “This year the owner of our building tried to evict all of the Section 8 tenants. We all got the eviction notices and started looking for a new place to live,” recalled Gonzalez.
“It turned out what he was doing was illegal. Once we spoke to a tenant organizer and an attorney, we found out that we had rights as rent-stabilized tenants. We went to court and the judge dropped our case. We don’t have to move. We want to make sure other tenants know they have rights, too,” she added.