Residents oppose rent hike

Residents oppose rent hike
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Connor Adams Sheets

The elderly attendees of the Whitestone Armory are joining with the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) to decry a plan by the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs they describe as designed to force them to pay more money.

The division has said it wants to raise annual rent from $25,000 to $31,000 for the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Community Center to use the facility to offer courses and activities for seniors as well as athletic classes and recreation space for children, Avella said.

But state funding has been slashed to the center — a separate entity from the civic — and it is already having trouble making its rent. So last week about 100 seniors, Avella and members of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers held a rally outside the Armory, at 150-74 6th Ave., aimed at drawing attention to their cause and calling on the division to find a way to allow the center to continue to use the space.

“It would be a shame because the seniors would have nowhere to go,” said Marlene Cody, a vice president of the civic. “We’re hoping both sides can sit down and work out a compromise so there wouldn’t be a rent raise. Maybe the seniors could give up a day or something so there would be concessions on both sides.”

Avella said the state agency said it is raising the rent because it needs to pay for added security, but his deputy chief of staff said Tuesday that the agency’s rental agreement with the community center already dedicates too much money to security — especially since the National Guard has a presence there.

“In the current agreement, 80 percent of the rent goes toward security. When you go down there, it’s not like there are security guards all over. There’s the guy that unlocks the door, that’s all,” Edward Fleming, community liaison for Avella, said. “When they have events, its always the Taxpayers who are checking IDs. And why are you charging for security when you have the National Guard there?”

The Division of Military and Naval Affairs has not responded to the request for lowered rents, but Fleming said Avella is pushing hard for the agency to lower the rent, and also trying to get Gov. Andrew Cuomo to encourage the agency to drop the increase.

Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association, said the community center serves a crucial role in providing activities for Whitestone residents.

“It would definitely be a negative impact for it to close, seeing as how it’s something that’s done for the kids and the seniors,” he said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.