New York Council Member Julie Won: Tenants Affected By Sunnyside Fire Call On Landlord To Extend Temporary Leases

By Office of Council Member Julie Won 

Photos: Jenna District 26

Sunnyside, NY – On Saturday, June 8, Council Member Julie Won, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, local nonprofits, and tenants of 43-09 47th Ave. in Sunnyside rallied at the site of the 5-alarm fire of December 20, 2023, to call on A&E Real Estate Holdings, to extend tenants’ temporary leases. Families and individuals from at least 28 units affected by the fire accepted relocation to other A&E-owned apartment buildings across New York City and are at risk of losing their homes for a second time if A&E does not extend the leases, which end on July 2, 2024. Council Member Won demanded that A&E reconsider their decision to terminate the temporary leases and make every effort to assist displaced tenants to move back to Sunnyside into A&E properties until construction is completed at 43-09 47th Ave. 

Following the fire, A&E offered tenants the option of signing a temporary relocation license agreement for “up to 6 months if needed,” allowing them to rent apartments at other A&E properties at the same monthly rate they had paid at 43-09 47th Ave. Despite telling tenants that they may be able to move back to their homes before the end of the six months or that A&E would “work with them if they needed more time,” the landlord shared plans to terminate these relocation agreements, raising rents on the tenants that accepted their initial offer. Furthermore, some tenants of 45-09 47th Ave. became homeless after the fire, despite vacant units owned by A&E in Sunnyside reportedly being listed on the open market.

On March 20, 2024, Council Member Won, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Senator Michael Gianaris, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards wrote a letter to A&E Executive Chairman Douglas F. Eisenberg outlining these demands. A&E ignored the letter and did not provide a response.

“I call on A&E to do the right thing and extend temporary leases for the 28 households who were displaced by the Sunnyside fire. After our neighbors spent the last 171 days rebuilding their lives, it would be beyond cruel to displace them a second time. A&E should extend the 6-month temporary lease agreements until it completes construction at 43-09 47th Ave,” said Council Member Julie Won. “Our neighbors lost their homes through no fault of their own and should not be displaced again and again. I will continue to work with the tenants and every level of government until every single tenant can move back home.”

“It would be unconscionable for A&E to terminate temporary leases and raise rents on tenants that had their lives upended by this terrible fire. These actions raise the possibility that these families that have been through so much could lose their homes for a second time,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “I stand in solidarity with the Sunnyside tenants of 43-09 47th Avenue who have been displaced by this fire through no fault of their own. I strongly urge A&E to reconsider their decision to terminate these relocation agreements and do more to help their tenants.”

“I am heartbroken for the residents still impacted following last winter’s fire in Sunnyside,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “I will continue to work with these families to do everything I can to support them, and that includes calling on A&E to do the right thing and find them housing while their homes are rebuilt.”

“These Sunnyside families, who have already been through so much upheaval in the last six months, deserve a roof over their heads. They should not be re-traumatized with the threat of losing another home, after losing their original one to a devastating fire during the holidays, through no fault of their own,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “A&E must work with the displaced families and extend their temporary leases until their original apartments are fully restored.”

Sunnyside Community Services stands with the former residents in calling for an extension of their temporary leases in order for these families to have some stability. Members of the SCS senior center and children from our youth programs were forced out of their homes when this fire occurred. We worked with them through the shock and trauma as this community rallied together to support them. Further hurt could be avoided by simply extending the leases while renovations to the building continue,” said Judy Zangwill, executive director, Sunnyside Community Services.

“Sunnyside Shines, like all of us in Sunnyside, was horrified by the fire and the aftermath. We were glad to step up and do what we could to support the relief work, including working with Sunnyside Community Services, the Office of NYC Council Member Julie Won, The Children’s Lab School – Q343, Aviation High School, Woodside On The Move, Johanna Carmona, and many others – we want to see the residents return to their homes and stand with Councilmember Won in her work to secure their lease extensions,” said Dirk McCall de Palomá, Executive Director, Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District.


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