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  • Writer's pictureRebecca B.

Landlords Showing a Kinder Side

The kind landlord is an elusive breed, almost extinct in our city. They often hide in outer burrows, carrying only a few rentals, keeping a low profile because as soon as a vacancy comes up, it is filled by a neighbor "in-the-know." They are mostly individuals, not large companies with building portfolios. But just when we were ready to add a column to the endangered New Yorker list, several larger property groups seem to be morphing into this beloved species.

While many New Yorkers have fled the city hoping to escape the chaos of the coronavirus epicenter, others have rushed here to help. There has been a huge housing demand for local and out-of-state healthcare workers. The city has partnered with hotels to give some assistance, but it wasn't enough. Enter Goldfarb Properties. They stepped in, offering 40 vacant units. The company has purposely invested in buildings that cater to the medical community in recent years, with hospitals nearby. When the need was obvious, there was no hesitation. The company offered 20 units near BronxCares Hospital and 20 units near St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Queens. All the units are filled. The agreement was for two months but that is now being extended.

The Bronx Goldfarb Property housing 20 medical workers

Goldfarb Vice President of Operations Trevor Schaper was the point person for the volunteers. He explained that most people moving into their buildings know the neighborhoods, having researched where they want to live, but these new residents didn't even know where to eat dinner. "So I was trying to walk them through that personally. I would check on them a couple of times a day," says Shaper. Pretty amazing.

And Goldfarb is not the only one. A Brooklyn landlord, Mario Salerno cancelled April rent for all 80 tenants in his 18 buildings. RxR Realty, a large developer in downtown New Rochelle, has donated $1 million to support the Manhattan suburb when it emerged as an early COVID-19 hotspot. A&E Real Estate Management gave its tenant, Sauze Pizzeria, a three-month break on rent because they were donating meals to medical workers. And perhaps the most generous donation was $15 million from Blackstone, one of the world's largest landlords, to help healthcare workers and food delivery companies.

Brooklyn landlord Salerno appearing on "Ellen"

Now, many have questioned the motivation behind these acts. Is it kindness or strategy? Blackstone, owner of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, has had a bumpy past and not-so-stellar reputation here. Recently they've made strides to combat that with assistance programs, rent deferrals, and fee forgiveness. Is this just another attempt at building positive image? The pandemic happens to come on the heels of a year when the real estate industry as a whole has been particularly villainized for being corrupt and horrible. When opportunity knocks, developers are often the first to open the door.

My response to that is, who cares. We live in New York where we champion work ethic and getting ahead. If this is how you do it, that's great. I HOPE companies are leading with humanity and not their image in mind. But it's a bit of the chicken or the egg question, right? If an evil business mogul does some good as a tactic, which is championed and leads to more business, that should lead to more good and the cycle keeps going. Eventually the mogul isn't so evil, seeing how great it is to do good. Simplistic, yes. But we can question the motivation behind all acts of kindness, and that is not where energy should be spent right now. As a real estate agent, I look forward to taking my clients to the many Goldfarb buildings in my area and talking about the good they are doing for the city. Let's all decide the real estate industry of this city is uniting to help the community and the endangered breed of the kind landlord is on the rise.

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