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Here’s one way to fill all those empty Billyburg apartments

The Brooklyn Paper
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Finding an apartment in Williamsburg just because a team sport.

A group of North Brooklyn residents are negotiating with the owners of struggling buildings that are now seeking renters instead of buyers — scoring themselves discounted rents and giving ailing developers a chance to raise some revenue.

“These buildings are vacant, so why not try to get everyone to move back?” said Zev Eisenberg, one of the founders of the Williamsburg Buyback, an online group.

The organization aims to link would-be tenants — Eisenberg among them — with cash-strapped developers who would consider cutting the renters a deal if they moved in en masse. Then the interested tenants would sign cut-rate leases and start renting as soon as the developer is ready to house them.

“You can’t really go up to a landlord and say, ‘Hey, can I get a deal?’ — but when I tell these guys I can fill their building in a week, they get a bit more interested,” said Eisenberg.

His timing may be good.

A condo-building craze transformed North Brooklyn during the boom, but the fiscal collapse has stagnated the Williamsburg and Greenpoint markets, bringing severe price cuts to high profile condo developments including Northside Piers, and forcing the builders behind the Magic Johnson–funded Viridian to file for bankruptcy.

The Williamsburg Buyback has not reached any deals with developers, but the group claims to be involved in negotiations with four developers for building-wide rent cuts of $100 or more per month.

In this market, the scheme just might work, according to North Brooklyn broker Herbert Kliegerman.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “The only issue might be that the developer might have too much money in the deal to be able to sustain the financing with rentals. … But then again, it’s always better to have money now than in the future.”

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Reader Feedback

charlie from greenpoint says:
the viridian has gone completely rental. we just rented a 1bdr for $2500
March 13, 2009, 10:22 am
Pat from Bay Ridge says:
"it’s always better to have money now than in the future"

Translation: "nobody in their right mind is dropping a half-million on a 1BR apartment any more".
March 13, 2009, 1:50 pm
Don from Williamsburg says:
The article doesn't mention who the members of the tenant group are, but unless the group is filled with prospective tenants who have good credit histories, it doesn't have a chance of working. It hasn't gotten to the point where landlords will just blindly accept anyone who signs a lease. There are unfortunately as many deadbeat tenants out there looking to rent things they can't afford as there are good ones. These developers need to pay back their debt. It's only a tenant's market if you have lots of money and are willing to pay 2400 plus for a one bedroom that's a slightly bigger closet than the one they'll find in Manhattan. Tenants who can only pay 2k or less have less to choose from and are still paying commissions to real estate brokers to find something affordable. It would take a lot for the developers to get to the $2k point. Finally, I don't buy that this guy Zev wants to fire a shot for original Williamsburgers pushed out of town. He's just one of the earlier generation of hipsters whose presence helped drive the oldtimers out. I'm not saying he's not well-meaning, but things need to be put into perspective.
March 13, 2009, 3:29 pm
Phoebe from Crown Heights says:
What landlord/developer in their right mind would rent to an organized group of tenants that thinks the land/developer is the enemy? Zev has clearly never been a landlord... he was probably the dictating roomate that no one liked either but put up with because they thought it esier to go with the flow.
March 13, 2009, 5:42 pm
Zev is a tool from Land of Tool says:
I've been reading about this on Curbed and have wondered what this jamoke Zev must look like. And wow, what a jamoke. What a laughing stock. I'm going to print his picture and line my kitty litter with it.
March 14, 2009, 1:03 am
artur from williamsburg says:
It's not the original developers that are renting them out, at this point many of the smaller buildings are shortsale buyers or foreclosure buyers and they really don't care where the renters are coming from necessarily - assuming what phoebe mentioned is correct that they have good credit.
March 15, 2009, 10:07 pm
mydig from park slope says:
zev can you contact me southside@gmail.com if you have good people im in
March 17, 2009, 8:26 am
Brett from Williamsburg says:
FYI - Zev is born and raised in Williamsburg, not, "He's just one of the earlier generation of hipsters whose presence helped drive the oldtimers out."
April 20, 2009, 6:49 pm

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