More tenants come out against Jamaica landlord

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THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

More families in apartment complexes throughout Jamaica have joined the fight against their landlord, Zara Realty, who they said constantly harasses them for money.

Fifteen more families in apartment complexes throughout Jamaica have joined the fight against their landlord, who they said constantly harasses them for money.

In December 2011, tenants of 90-36 149th Street filed suit against Zara Realty, which manages the building complex. Among the host of complaints, the tenants alleged unfair and repeated rent increases and a laundry list of basic repairs left disregarded.

Now, Robert McCreanor, director of legal services at the Catholic Migration Office — which represents the tenants — said the agency has asked the court to allow 15 more families from four other buildings managed by Zara Realty to be added to the lawsuit.

According to McCreanor, more tenants reached out to Catholic Migration, saying they are constantly being charged and harassed for bills they don’t owe. McCreanor said the tenants have been taken to court by their landlord, are regularly sent automated calls many times a day and have even been threatened to be reported to the credit bureau.

“This is a big problem,” said Eduardo Barahona, executive director of Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan — an advocacy group working directly with the tenants. “It’s frustrating that we still can’t stop this harassment after so many years.”

Barahona said he has been helping these tenants for close to 10 years, battling the same landlord and the same issues. He said he helps connect the tenants to Catholic Migration due to the fact that the majority of them predominantly speak Spanish.

“I hope there will be some kind of resolution. I hope things will be better,” Barahona said.

Meanwhile, George Subraj, president of Zara Realty, said the accusations are false.

“That’s not true. To harass someone for money, it’s a big, big thing,” he said. “You have to have just and proper cause. They have to actually owe the money. We have to prove that. I can justify that the moneys are indeed owed.”

According to Subraj, rent is due for each tenant at the first of every month. While residents have a five day grace period, he said any late payments after five days warrant “an oral demand” in the form of a telephone call once a month and then a legal, written demand if the first goes unanswered.

However, he said he has never called tenants more than once a month if they owe money, and he denied sending any automated calls.

Subraj did admit to taking several tenants to court due to “chronic non-payments.”

“One tenant was 40 times late with payment, and another was three months late,” he said, adding that some tenants are now under lenient court-ordered repayment plans. “We are really meticulous, and a lot of people don’t like that.”

McCreanor said the motion to add the extra families is pending and a decision would be reached by March 8.


  • George Subraj

    To The Editor:
    We’d like to update your readers regarding a lawsuit filed against Zara Realty that was the subject of two recent articles in The Queens Courier.

    In short, this action brought by a small portion of our tenants came about because they did not want to pay a rent increase or failed to understand an increase that was already approved under the Rent Stabilization Code of New York State in the form of a Major Capital Improvements (MCI) order.

    Here are some important issues that relate to your past coverage:

    First, the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (formerly known as the Division of Housing and Community Renewal) approved our application for a rent increase for all of the tenants based upon a building-wide improvements plan we submitted under the MCI.
    Those MCI improvements, which benefit all of our tenants in the building, include a new roof including new insulation, water proofing and pointing of the entire building façade and the roof, and new building entrance doors at a cost more than $1 million; the Rent
    Stabilization Code permits owners of rent-stabilized apartments to recoup monies invested through increases in the legal regulated rent of every tenant, not just the plaintiffs.. Various tenants filed objections to the Owner’s MCI application. Yet, HCR approved the MCI Application.
    It should be noted that this building is over 70 years old. In order to maintain a building of this age, expenditures like those approved by HCR are needed to insure and improve the quality of life that all of tenants residing in the building enjoy.

    Second, Zara Realty has no violations on file with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHPD) for the past two years. Currently, with the exception of a single complaint, all of the 150 complaints filed by the plaintiffs have been denied by HCR. None of the plaintiffs
    whose complaints were denied by HCR have filed an appeal with HCR. Yet, these same complaints were included in this litigation in violation of HCR procedures.
    Third, we enjoy good relations with our tenants in all of our properties in Queens and on Long Island. Unfortunately, through the solicitation of attorney Robert McCreanor, some of our tenants were misled into joining a frivolous lawsuit in an effort to avoid the rent increase approved by HCR. Instead of following the procedural appeal through HCR, McCreanor
    filed the instant lawsuit in an attempt to circumvent the collection of the legal rent increase approved by HCR.

    Our tenants, many who have lived in the building for more than two decades, know that they have real access to us as owners by email, telephone and in person six days a week whenever there’s a problem. Our business is only successful because we make it a priority to address the concerns of our tenants.
    We could not have achieved our business success over the past three decades without listening to and responding to tenant concerns. It is our mission to continue this mutually beneficial relationship for years to come.

    George Subraj


    Zara Realty