Roy Reuther Houses Sold Again
By Miriam Rosenberg
"Flipping" a property is an old story in the real estate game. It occurs when somebody buys a piece of property and then sells it immediately in order to turn a profit.
That seems to be the case with the former Roy Reuther Houses at 711 Seagirt Avenue in Far Rockaway.
For the second time in a year, the four-building complex that was originally built by the Electrician's Union to house senior citizens has new owners.
In January 2006, The Wave reported that the complex of connected buildings had been sold and that the new owners would take possession the following month. The plan was for the owners to convert the building to general rental rather than strictly senior citizens.
Now, however, another new conglomerate of owners has taken ownership of the building.
In addition to some grand plans for the place, the new owners have given it a new name - "The Sand Castle."
According to the building's manager, Meyer Brecher of E & M Associates (which is a member of the ownership group), he has already met with the building's tenants association and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer to assure them that nothing would change for those already living in the building, many of them senior citizens on fixed incomes who have called the building home for many years.
"We're strictly here to rent apartments. We're not selling condos or co-ops," said Brecher. "We're fixing the building - it was built in the '70's."
Brecher also said lower income tenants have nothing to fear and their rental status will remain unchanged.
While the website for Sand Castle shows only photos of young people at play, relaxing or doing exercise, the new manager said no one is being pushed out.
"There's a substantial number of elderly who live here," continued Brecher. "We're trying to appeal to younger people but we will also be appealing to the elderly as well."
Pheffer, who has a long history of working with Roy Reuter Houses, was involved in last year's buy-out from Seagirt Houses Associates.
"[This] will be no different than the first person who bought it [last year]," said Joanne Shapiro, Pheffer's chief-of-staff, who added that the assemblywoman's office has had good conversations with the new building manager.
"[The new owner] seems to want to upgrade the building," said Shapiro, who sounded encouraged by what she had heard so far.
Shapiro did mention one cause for concern - rents for use of the parking lot by tenants had recently been raised.
"It's a bit of a hardship especially on older tenants who are used to paying the minimum," Shapiro said of the parking increase.
Among the changes being planned for the complex are a private screening movie theater, a fitness center, a game room, a business center and lounge. The new owner plans to charge what he terms as "open market rents" starting at $950 a month for a studio apartment.
The complex was built by the union in 1971 under the Mitchell-Llama Program that guaranteed middle-class housing. That programs allows owners to opt out after the mortgage is paid.
The new owners opted out of the program last year, making the building market rate rather than regulated, affordable housing.
While Shapiro said that Pheffer was pleased with what she has been told so far, she said they would keep an eye on what happens at the building.
"We will continue to monitor to make sure there is nothing that negatively impacts tenants and to fully continue to protect [tenants]," concluded Shapiro.