BY JAMES FARRELL
Parts of Queens will be able to opt out of receiving real estate solicitations, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) announced last week.
For Bay Terrace and parts of Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Malba, Murray Hill, North Flushing and Whitestone, new Department of State (DOS) regulations will allow residents to file a cease-and-desist notice that would prevent real estate brokers from soliciting the sale of residents’ houses.
In 1989, the state legislature designated Queens as a “cease and desist” zone, according to Avella. But the size of the zone was scaled back in 2009 and the zone itself was removed after the DOS regulations expired in 2014. According to Avella, constituents often complained about repeated solicitations from real estate agents leaving notices, making phone calls or knocking on doors to inquire about selling residents’ houses.
“They feel harassed,” Avella said of some constituents who received repeated solicitations despite not wanting to sell their houses.
In 2016, DOS held several public hearings in Queens after Avella raised complaints.
The meetings attracted spirited debate at the time, with many residents and civic activists describing harassment at the hands of realtors, and a large number of realtors defending the solicitation practice. The new regulations are DOS’s response to the testimonies at those hearings.
The new DOS regulations are not an all-encompassing ban on solicitations, Avella said. Residents must register to be put on a cease-and-desist list that will indicate to real estate agents their unwillingness to be solicited.
“It still requires a property owner to be proactive and register,” Avella said.
Additionally, Avella said, the cease-and-desist zone does not encompass certain neighborhoods in Queens that have had complaints about excessive solicitation in the past, such as Holliswood, Bellerose and Jamaica Estates.
“We’re going to continue to work on these other neighborhoods,” Avella said.
The new regulations will undergo a 45-day public comment period that began on July 26.
Bill Gans, an associate broker with Keller Williams Realty who had spoken out in defense of solicitations at one of the 2016 public hearings, said that he is supportive of the regulations as long as it is an opt-out program.
“My opinion is an American citizen has a right to choose whether they’re approached or not,” he said.
His concern when he came out to the meeting in 2016 was that the practice of soliciting business was being portrayed in an overly negative light, and that it could be banned completely.
“Politicians do it,” he said of the practice. “Religious groups do it, foundations do it and Jesus did it.”
Avella said he wouldn’t be surprised if the real estate industry sued over the new regulations, but that he felt that there was no need for concern over how they could affect business.
“There are still plenty enough people that will not sign on to the list that they can solicit,” he said.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.