Cypress Hills Homeowner Help Desk Seeks to Aid Locals Amidst Change

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East New York and Cypress Hills are in the midst of major changes, from gentrification to the 2016 rezoning that has the potential to change the area forever.

Cypress Hills Community Development Corp. seeks to maintain affordable housing in the area by helping low income and elderly homeowners stay in their homes and not fall prey to foreclosure, scams, and developer pressure tactics.

The Cypress Hills Homeowner Help Desk debuted in December and offers education, counseling and legal advice to the homeowners of Cypress Hills and East New York.

Homeowners can call the help desk about a number of problems, including management of homeowner expenses, real estate scams, repairs homeowners can’t afford, tenant problems, unpaid property violations, and tax and water liens.

“One thing people don’t know is that there is help available — and we can provide that assistance through the Help Desk. We try to talk to homeowners about the pressures and concerns in a rapidly changing area,” said Lucy Raimes, network director at Center for NYC Neighborhoods, which operates the program for Cypress Hills Community Development Corp.

“The concept for the help desk came about in the wake of the rezone,” said Michelle Neugebauer, executive director of the Cypress Hills Community Development Corporation. “Community activists in the area brought to the attention of the city the presence of low income and elderly homeowners. It was a hidden source of affordable housing that needed to be preserved.”

Although the service is for homeowners, the initiative indirectly helps renters, said Neugebauer.

“The program is important because the small homes owned by low and moderate income families is a forgotten resource of affordable housing in New York City, not only because they are there but they rent to the same bracket of income,” she explained. “With the gentrification wave, the homeowners are under a lot of outside stresses — there are people pressuring them to engage in business that isn’t in their best interests. People have put their stakes here in the community, and we want to help them preserve that.”

Cypress Hills Local Development Corp. also plans to hold regular events to bring together homeowners, housing counselors and attorneys.

The first one takes place Wednesday, February 8. City Council Member Rafael Espinal is a sponsor of the event, which offers legal and housing counseling services in person. It takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at P.S. 89 at 265 Warwick Street.

The funding for the Help Desk program comes from the the NYC Department of Housing and Preservation, intended to counteract the effects of the foreclosure crisis in New York. The funding came about after a deal was brokered by the Mayor’s office and Councilperson Espinal as part of the rezone.

Regular hours to contact the Help Desk are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For counseling or more information about the Help Desk, call (718) 647-8100 or visit them online here.

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