East New York homeowners fed up with aggressive offers to sell their houses have a shot at getting legal relief: The New York Department of State is considering establishing a cease-and-desist zone in the area.
A key hearing in the effort to establish such a zone is coming up on Thursday, March 5, from 5-8 p.m. at 127 Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn.
Any resident of Brooklyn community district 5 is welcome to testify. District 5 (see a detailed map here) includes the neighborhoods of Broadway Junction, City Line, Cypress Hills, East New York, Highland Park, New Lots, Spring Creek and Starrett City. (You can search by address here to learn which community district you live in.)
In cease-and-desist zones, property owners can add their name to a list of people whom real estate brokers are barred from contacting.
The zones are declared for five years. Currently, there are zones in Auburndale, Bayside, Bay Terrace, College Point, Malba, Murray Hill, North Flushing and Whitestone in Queens; the Country Club area of the Bronx and the village of Chestnut Ridge in Rockland County. Only 65 homeowners have added their names to the Bronx list, but there are 156 on the list in Rockland County, and the Queens cease-and-desist zone has 1,175 subscribers.
In neighborhoods with hot real-estate markets, some homeowners complain about daily visits and phone calls from businesspeople looking to buy properly.
The tactics can be annoying to individuals; advocates say they can also be destabilizing for gentrifying neighborhoods. They contend that aggressive pitches from realtors sometimes pressure homeowners who would not otherwise sell into taking a deal.
When the house is then flipped (re-sold soon thereafter at a higher price), it contributes to rising prices and rents in the neighborhood. The sellers, meanwhile, sometimes find the profit from the sale is not enough to afford new housing anywhere near their long-time community.
A cease-and-desist zone has been on the wish-list of the community organizations who raised concerns about the 2016 East New York rezoning.
The umbrella group Coalition for Community Advancement says it won the March 5 hearing by “collecting over 500 surveys documenting the aggressive, repeated real estate speculation in the community, which often targets vulnerable homeowners (those at risk of foreclosure; who owe tax & water debt to the city; and seniors)” and submitting them to the Department of State.
“If won,” the coalition noted in a 2019 press release, “this would be the only zone in all of Brooklyn, a borough rapidly undergoing gentrification.”
There are legislative efforts underway to declare all Brooklyn and all Queens to be cease-and-desist zones.
The real-estate industry opposes the creation of individual zones by the Department of State as well as the new legislative efforts to create geographic prohibitions.
In its legislative agenda last year, the New York State Association of Realtors celebrated the failure of Parker’s bill, noting that NYSAR “strongly opposes cease-and-desist zones which specifically target licensed real estate professionals while ineffectively allowing unlicensed individuals and firms to continue engaging in unwanted practices unfettered.”
Cypress Hills Community Development Corporation encourages people wishing to testify to contact them.