By Mark Hallum
At a Department of State hearing for the reinstatement of cease-and-desist zones, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) found the meeting inundated with real estate agents—38 of them, according to an April 29 press release. The result was what he called a “hijacking” to prevent homeowners from once again being able to opt-out of solicitations.
Cease-and-desist zones were established in Bayside in 1989 to keep solicitors from pressuring homeowners to sell below market rate. Homeowners simply had to submit their address to a list to keep real estate agents from showing up at their door or leaving flyers on their property. The cease-and-desist zone expired in 2014, and since then reports of unwanted solicitation have been on the rise, according to Avella.
“I’m appalled by the circus that was last night’s DOS hearing on re-instituting a cease-and-desist zone. One after another, real estate agents went up to repeat their organized talking points wile their business associates cheered from their seats. If anything, all they’ve done is illustrate the absolute need to reinstate cease-and-desist zones,” the senator said.
Of the 38 testimonies, 11 were non-realtors, all of which described real estate solicitation to be extreme, Avella said.
Although the realtors who gave testimony at the hearing deny any organization behind their attendance, Avella believes that it was a cooperative effort to sabotage the meeting.
One example Avella gave of this was of a testimony against cease and desist zones from a woman who pretended to be one of his constituents. According to the press release, it turns out she is a former president of the Long Island Board of Realtors and resides outside the senator’s district. Another attendee was said to threaten to organize votes against Tony Avella in the next election for his stance on real estate solicitation.
“Many of real estate agents who spoke last night had little to no understanding about what they were commenting on.” Avella said. “They were simply there because they were asked to and it was clear that mob mentality allowed no room for clarity. Ironically, some even suggested that, rather than a blanket ban on solicitation, we allow homeowners to put their address on an opt-out list. Well, I suppose I need to thank them for their unintentional support because that’s exactly what cease-and-desist zones do.”
The Department of State is accepting written testimony on the issue until May 15, 2015.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall