BY LYNN EDMONDS
Sanford Street in Flushing is undergoing an intense bout of gentrification, one resident on the street told the Queens Tribune.
The resident, who wished to remain anonymous because he feared retaliation from his landlord, said he was concerned about a number of telltale indicators of gentrification on his street. Those signs included turnover in building owners, aggressive construction on rent-stabilized buildings, entire apartment buildings that were empty and turnover among residents.
Tarry Hum, a professor at CUNY, said as much in an op-ed for the Gotham Gazette on May 2. Her research found that 11 percent of 388 rent-stabilized buildings in Flushing were sold in the period between 2010 and January 2016.
Specifically, seven rent-stabilized buildings in Flushing, containing 488 apartments, changed hands in December 2015, with Treetop Development LLC buying the units from Algin Management.
She said the turnover was an indication that investors were speculating they could get higher rents in years to come.
Hum added adding that the $138.8 sale was financed by ACORE, a group that is ultimately backed by Tokio Marine Group, an insurance group in Japan.
“The purchase of seven Sanford Avenue rent-stabilized buildings, financed by transnational private equity investors, illustrates how multi-family rental properties in the outer boroughs are treated as global investment vehicles with tremendous potential profits,” she wrote, adding, “in order for those profits to be realized, however; rents will have to increase substantially.”
The Sanford Avenue resident sees changes to his building as just another way for his new landlord to justify increasing the rent on the rent-stabilized building. Landlords are allowed to tack on construction costs to rent. And though that cost is supposed to come off once the balance if paid off, it typically never does.
He said in recent years his landlord at 132-40 Sanford Ave. had done substantial improvements on the building, included new elevators, a new irrigation system for outdoor plants, new mailboxes, new energy saving lighting in the hallways, new energy saving outdoors lighting, new CCTV security cameras outdoors and indoors, drapery, sofas and frame paintings for the lobby, new outdoor gates and fences, a new building number and a new intercom system. Those changes had been used to justify rent increases.
Since a new landlord has bought the building, he said the cycle is happening all over again. “Now they are replacing the lights with incandescent light bulbs and lowering the ceiling in the hallways,” he said. “Seems we are regressing.”
He added that Treetop recently gutted the lobby of another rent-stabilized building that they bought.
He also complained of a lack of hot water in his building in May.
“This is day two,” he wrote. “textbook harassment.”
Every time tent-stabilized units turn over, landlords are legally allowed to raise the rent by a certain percentage. When the total rent rises to a certain threshold, the unit then becomes market rate. This system incentivizes landlords to push tenants out in order to be able to raise rents faster.
In May, the resident estimated that 10 of 94 units in his building had recently been evacuated.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana