East New York rally against speculation

Dozens of East New York and Cypress Hills residents marched across Eastern Brooklyn on Saturday to tell speculators that their neighborhoods are “not for sale.” Along the way, participants tore down “all cash” for homes signs that have become an unwelcome symbol of the rush of developers and brokers targeting homeowners in and around the communities rezoned by the City Council in April 2016. But while tearing down signs and calling attention to aggressive speculation may highlight the issue, a policy solution to the problem may come in the form of a cease and desist zone.

Last year, East New York led the City in property flipping, a maneuver that allows often unscrupulous brokers and developers to capitalize on the financial vulnerability of low-income homeowners. The signs can have more sinister implications as well: mortgage modification and deed theft scams have also mushroomed in the neighborhood, and too often homeowners turn to the solicitors knocking on their doors or the shady companies putting up signs who don’t have homeowners’ best interests at heart.

Homeowners can access free, legal help by calling the
Center for NYC Neighborhoods at 855-HOME-456.

 

New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal, who was among several elected officials who marched with residents on Saturday, tore down a sign during the march and told the crowd, “We have to give our homeowners and tenants all the resources they need to fight gentrification.”

Public Advocate Letitia James declared, “We’re basically here to defend Cypress Hills from the speculators who are preying on this community.” She called speculators “bad actors” who “target homeowners, especially seniors who are equity rich but cash poor.” City Comptroller Scott Stringer also marched with the group.

State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan joined Espinal and James in calling for a cease and desist zone, which would empower homeowners to stop harassing calls, door knocking and fliers from speculators seeking to purchase their home. In a cease-and-desist zone, homeowners can opt-in to a no-solicitation registry enforced by the New York Department of State.

The rally was organized by an alliance of local groups called the Coalition for Community Advancement.

“They have a door to door process, they sit down with you, they become friendly to you, you invite them into your homes, so the sales that are happening are under the radar … They’re not giving ‘Darma next door’ an opportunity to buy the house next door to her,” said Darma Diaz, a local homeowner and a member of the Coalition, told City Limits.

Photo: Julia Watt-Rosenfeld, Cypress Hills LDC