The handwritten note was posted at what appeared to be a long abandoned home in East New York. “Dear property owner,” the sign read in black ink, “I am interested in buying your property ALL CASH.”
Throughout the neighborhood, and in communities that have increasingly attracted the interest of developers from the east Bronx to southeast Queens, such signs have become commonplace. Residents of these neighborhoods also complain of aggressive brokers or their proxies going door-to-door offering cash or calling repeatedly with offers to buy out homeowners.
The aggressive speculation has gotten so bad, say residents and some policymakers, that they are calling on the state to impose “cease and desist” zones that would allow homeowners to opt-in to a no-solicitation registry. On Thursday, the New York Department of State plans a hearing in Bayside to hear from the public about a proposal to designate all of Queens such a zone. A previous hearing for a new cease and desist zone in the Bronx was held on April 20.
The state already has a cease and desist law, but it’s been at least a decade since any part of New York City has been declared a cease and desist zone. State Sen. Tony Avella is sponsoring a bill that would designate all of Queens such a zone for 10 years. “Our residents have the right to enjoy the peace and quiet that our borough is known for, and that includes peace and quiet from obnoxious solicitations,” Avella said in a statement.
Another state senator, Jeff Klein of the Bronx, is also supporting the re-establishment of cease and desist zones in the city because of “unsavory brokers.” “They try to stir people up to get them to sell,” said Klein to the Bronx Times. “The over-solicitation always worries people.”
Aggressive real estate speculation can also have longterm consequences for affordability in these neighborhoods, since buyers often flip homes to make a profit, inflating home prices and making it more expensive for renters in small homes.
As part of its East New York rezoning deal, the City agreed to “support the community’s efforts to study the feasibility of establishing a Cease and Desist Zone.”
The real estate industry is paying attention. In a post on its website about the hearing, the Long Island Board of Realtors called on its members to turn out and to let the [Department of State] know that “we will not give in to this unfair targeting of our industry.”
The Board also proposed talking points for its members. The zone, one bullet-point read, “will have a severe impact on REALTORS® ability to make a living as they rely heavily on advertising to acquire listings.” Another reads, “Our solicitations are always courteous and provide homeowners with valuable information about recent home sales and values in the neighborhood.”
But it’s clear that residents in many of the neighborhoods where speculation has dramatically increased in recent years are growing tired of the constant inquiries and sales pitches.
Michael McNerney, the president of the Country Club Civic Association in east Bronx, told the Bronx Times that solicitations to homeowners are being mailed, dropped off and attached to fences and doors. He said one solicitation included a cake recipe.
“We believe that homeowners should have the right and entitlement to sell their homes on their own terms and their own conditions without being coerced,” McNerney told the Bronx Times.