By Mark Hallum
An expired program that allowed homeowners to opt out of real estate solicitations will return to select areas of northeast Queens, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) announced Wednesday.
The provision will block companies from leaving fliers and going door-to-door where residents have listed their addresses on a registry making it illegal for solicitors to do so.
New York’s Department of State decided to restore the “cease and desist zone” following three public hearings. Residents and representatives of civic associations gathered to complain of aggressive and persistent tactics on the part of real estate companies attempting to convince homeowners to sell below the market rate.
“Though I wish that the cease-and-desist zone covered the entire borough of Queens, I think we have taken a very big step towards protecting homeowners from the predatory tactics of real estate agents that became a norm in our neighborhoods,” Avella said. “These new zones will also help to promote a better relationship between homeowners and real estate agents who work and live in the community. The creation of these zones is a common-sense solution to the aggressive real estate industry campaign to bully homeowners into thinking it is time to sell their home. I thank the Department of State for realizing that the solicitation residents faced was intense and unending, and for taking action to put an end to this.”
An earlier opt-out program started in 1989, during a real estate boom, and expired in 2014. The new cease-and-desist zone will cover College Point, Flushing, Bay Terrace, Auburndale, Malba, Murray Hill and Whitestone. This one will expire in 2022, though Avella is hoping to get a law passed in the state to ban real estate solicitations in Queens, indefinitely.
According to the new DOS regulations, “no licensed real estate broker or salesperson shall solicit … in a designated cease-and-desist zone if such owner has filed a cease-and-desist notice with the Department of State indicating that such owner or owners do not desire to sell, lease or list their residential property and do not desire to be solicited to sell, lease or list their residential property.”
The contentious effort to have these zone reinstated brought drama to an April 2016 hearing, which Avella said at the time was overrun with real estate brokers, agents and salespeople posing as residents against cease-and-desist zones. Of the 38 people who testified, 11 were non-Realtors, all of whom described real estate solicitation to be extreme, Avella said in a news release. One of the residents giving testimony against cease-and-desist was a former president of the Long Island Board of Realtors. Avella said she testified as one of his own constituents.
Wednesday’s press conference was joined by Auburndale Improvement Association President Terri Pouymari, North Flushing Senior Center Director Betty Faraone and Bay Terrace resident Phil Konigsberg, who cited litter from flyers and junk mail, while claiming people who wish to sell will seek out a real estate agent on their own terms.
Pouymari expressed concern that real estate developers could be turning homes in single-family zones into illegal conversions.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall