News Release: The Faces of the Ground Lease Coop Coalition Reflect a Diverse Community Advocates Unified by a Fight for Fairness, Stability and Affordability

  • May 16, 2024
  • Press Releases

More than 100 residents and families traveled to Albany recently to fight to save their homes. Among the group are a school secretary from Sheepshead Bay, a former bus driver from Far Rockaway, and an 80-year-old woman of Asian descent and is a naturalized citizen who has resided in Flushing for more than 30 years.

They are a few of the many middle-class voices calling on state legislators in Albany to protect the homes and lives they invested in. Tens of thousands of residents are collectively urging the legislature to pass legislation to establish fairness, stability, and affordability for the co-op apartments they live in today.

Jennifer Wagner is a single mother and a resident of Sheepshead Terrace, a co-op located in Southern Brooklyn that hosts 168 co-op units. She works as a school secretary and traveled to Albany to fight for her disabled son who is unable to live alone. “I raised my children in a two-bedroom apartment at Sheepshead Terrace. My son, now in his early 20s is autistic. When I purchased our apartment, I intended it to provide the kind of stability we could all depend on in the future. In 2002, we moved in, and since then, the land has been sold multiple times. When the co-op board reached out to the new owners, we were largely ignored and when our representative finally connected with the owner – we were told they were unwilling to discuss a potential renewal or purchase by the co-op owners of the land. Without the support of our legislators, we could potentially be left with nothing.”

Carol Brooks is a 27-year resident of Shoreview Co-op. For many years she was an MTA bus driver. Her mother purchased the co-op with her savings from working as a nurse and Ms. Brooks inherited the property after her mother passed away. “Our ground lease co-op building is comprised of 72 apartments – and the biggest concern my neighbors share is the inability to sell their units because banks are unwilling to finance the purchase due to the ground lease. The resale value of our units is far below those of comparable units in the area because of a ground lease that is set to expire in less than 30 years. We have even tried to buy the land. A former president of the co-op board Norman Silverman, now in his 80s, recollects that when he approached the landowners years ago he was told to ‘pound salt.’ This is not a trivial matter – we are fighting because we love our homes, and community.”

“Our group sits at their kitchen tables and meets on Zoom to work to protect their piece of the American Dream,” said Michael Tang, an active member of the Ground Lease Coop Coalition, and resident of the Murray Hill co-op in Queens. “But what has become clear is the agents of real estate developers and landlords – the Real Estate Board of New York – have descended on the Capitol in Albany to derail this legislation, protect their path to unbridled profit, and cast my neighbors as something other than hard-working New Yorkers. You can tell a lot about the merit of your advocacy based on who opposes you.”

While in Albany, Mr. Tang pointed out two of his neighbors who made the journey to Albany – in spite of the fact that their combined age is 165 years young. Mrs. Wu, 80, and Mr. Wong, 85, traveled to Albany because they have built a life in their culturally diverse community. “My neighbors and I love living in the Flushing community where the vast majority of residents are older adults. Others value the access to the Long Island Rail Road and subway. The Murray Hill community supports the ground lease legislation because it addresses an important and ongoing issue – the ability of co-op owners to borrow for repairs, maintenance, and capital improvements. And to comply with local law. In other cases, for those who seek to sell a co-op because their family is growing, the transaction and market are limited because many banks are unwilling to provide mortgages to those seeking to purchase a co-op containing a ground lease that expires in less than 30 years.”