Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jeffries gets Corcoran to revise listings from Prospect Heights to Crown Heights; why not challenge FCR's claim AY would be in "downtown Brooklyn"?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's drawn attention, praise, and skepticism (I Love Franklin Ave., Brownstoner) for his announced plan to "punish real estate agents for inventing neighborhood names and for falsely stretching their boundaries," can report some success with the latter part of his effort.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Jeffries just opened an exploratory committee for a possible race for the Congressional seat now occupied by longtime Rep. Ed Towns, who may retire.)

He announced yesterday (full press release below) that, in response to his request, the Corcoran Group, a major real estate company, agreed to move "the eastern boundary of the Prospect Heights community back to its proper border, and correct[ed] several listings that had improperly marketed Crown Heights properties as located in Prospect Heights."

Jeffries' reasonable argument, made in a letter to Corcoran: "In my view, this misrepresentation appears deliberately designed to artificially inflate housing prices in the Crown Heights community to the detriment of both working families who reside in the neighborhood and the prospective residents who are being deceived."

Given that many other brokers, as well as less established marketers on Craigslist, are claiming that Crown Heights locations are in Prospect Heights, Jeffries presumably could write a bunch more letters. Yes, neighborhood definitions are fluid, but perhaps the press will now do a better job pointing to egregious deceptions.

Here's coverage on Curbed, The Real Deal, Patch (which notes that Corcoran has still moved the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy border), and Brownstoner (ditto).

What about AY?

Given that Jeffries is apparently a stickler for Prospect Heights' boundaries, citing Flatbush Avenue as its western border, it's notable that the Assemblyman has not taken on a bigger target, challenging Forest City Ratner's ongoing claim, since 2003, that Atlantic Yards would be in "downtown Brooklyn."

But Jeffries has often been on the fence regarding Atlantic Yards. And his constituents likely are more divided on Atlantic Yards than on real estate brokers claiming that Franklin Avenue = Prospect Heights, or even the emerging ProCro coinage to describe the zone just east of the recognized Prospect Heights border.

From Park Slope to Greenwood Heights and ProCro

Historian Suleiman Osman, in a 5/1/11 Daily News op-ed, observed that renaming is nothing new:

The Neighborhood Integrity Act is an understandable response to a cynical form of place naming. But in the end, even the oldest neighborhood names are invented. That does not make them unimportant. Greenwich Village was once as new a title as BoCoCa, but it allowed, in time, residents to organize politically and to retain a sense of history and place. So, perhaps, will BoCoCa one day.

Regardless of the ultimate fate of Jeffries' proposal, we should all continually question each neighborhood name: Who coined it, and why? Who is included within its borders? Who is left out?
The change

As screenshot at top indicates, 892 Bergen Street, which is located between Classon and Franklin avenues, is now listed as being located in Crown Heights.

Then again, as the screenshot at right indicates, Corcoran was not as quick to update the building-specific website, which still claims Prospect Heights.


The press release

ASSEMBLYMAN JEFFRIES COMMENDS THE CORCORAN GROUP FOR MODIFYING CENTRAL BROOKLYN ADVERTISING PRACTICES IN RESPONSE TO NEIGHBORHOOD INTEGRITY CAMPAIGN

Letter from Assemblyman to Corcoran CEO triggers change in website listings and neighborhood boundary descriptions

Brooklyn, NY - Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries today applauded the Corcoran Group, one of the city's largest and most prominent real estate companies, for changing their advertising practices by moving the eastern boundary of the Prospect Heights community back to its proper border, and correcting several listings that had improperly marketed Crown Heights properties as located in Prospect Heights.

In a letter dated April 25, to Corcoran president and CEO Pamela Liebman, Assemblyman Jeffries requested that the Corcoran Group change its advertising practices. He cited New York State Real Property Law (Sec. 441-c(a) of Article 12-A) that permits the Secretary of State to sanction a real estate broker, "if such licensee has been guilty of fraud or fraudulent practices, or for dishonest or misleading advertising, or has demonstrated untrustworthiness or incompetency to act as a real estate broker or salesman," according to the law.

The traditional boundaries of the Prospect Heights community are Washington Avenue to the east, Eastern Parkway to the south, Flatbush Avenue to the west and Atlantic Avenue to the north. Corcoran's website, however, described the eastern boundary as Bedford Avenue, putting it squarely in Crown Heights and misrepresenting both the contours of the Prospect Heights neighborhood and property listings being advertised.

"In my view, this misrepresentation appears deliberately designed to artificially inflate housing prices in the Crown Heights community to the detriment of both working families who reside in the neighborhood and the prospective residents who are being deceived," said Assemblyman Jeffries in the letter.

Ms. Liebman acknowledged their error and the Corcoran Group subsequently corrected the boundaries. Furthermore, properties on the border once advertised by Corcoran as located in Prospect Heights are now properly marketed as in Crown Heights.

Assemblyman Jeffries sent the letter to Corcoran as part of the neighborhood integrity campaign he recently launched. While he commends the Corcoran Group for its responsiveness, he will continue to monitor real estate listings throughout central Brooklyn and beyond to ensure compliance with the law.

He will also shortly introduce legislation that will require the city of New York to develop an official process for the renaming of neighborhoods or changing of traditional boundaries. Called the Neighborhood Integrity Act, the law is designed to curtail the practice of licensed real estate brokers making up names out of thin air simply to rebrand a neighborhood in order to make it more desirable for affluent New Yorkers.

"There is a free for all in New York City that is inconsistent with the obligation under law for realtors to provide the public with accurate information about property listings, or with respect to renaming neighborhoods and redrawing boundaries. The Corcoran Group did the right thing. It's now important for other realtors to bring their practices into compliance with the law," said Assemblyman Jeffries.

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