Queens Landlord Accused of Trying to Scare Undocumented Immigrants into Moving Away
In Queens, a landlord is accused of trying to scare undocumented immigrants to move away. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Homeland security tipline posters in the lobby of a building on 168th Street, and at other Zara Realty Properties in this heavily immigrant community, are not very welcoming for some of the residents.
Elena Tul Pacheco, who lives at a Zara building on Parsons Boulevard, says the landlord is trying to get rid of tenants who are undocumented immigrants.
"He wants me out," she said.
An undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, Pacheco has been living in her rent stabilized apartment for 20 years.
She says Zara took over the building about three years ago, and that's when problems began, like requesting her Social Security number, something she cannot provide.
"It's too much stress for me," she said.
Pacheco also accuses the landlord of unjustly jacking up rents and fees, to drive tenants away.
Once a rent-stabilized apartment is vacated, the landlord has a freer hand to change more for it.
Several tenant advocacy groups are fighting Zara.
"What we are seeing here is a systematic pattern that we have noticed right across not just this building, but several of the buildings owned by this landlord where we have done work," said Carlos Ortiz, a tenant organizer with Catholic Migration Services.
Zara Realty ownes and manages more than three dozen properties in Jamaica.
Lawyers at Queens Legal Services say they represent hundreds of tenants making accusations against the company.
"We have seen DHS signs. We have seen signs that imply that there is terrorist activity in the building. We have seen signs that say that if you see something suspicious, please contact ICE," said Lino Diaz, an attorney with Queens Legal Services. "We believe that those posters are meant to intimidate."
Zara denies that. Through a statement. the company says it was founded by Guyanese immigrants and that suggestions of bias by professional advocates are preposterous.
The company added, "The posters were given to us by law enforcement, which requested they be posted. Our tenancy applications, and apartment renewals and means of tenant identification, are based upon standard guidelines of the New York Rent Stabilization Law."
But tenants like Pacheco say the result is that they now live in fear.