Saturday, March 05, 2016

Finding homes for the Hasidic: Push is on in Worley Heights 

Purim came early in Worley Heights.

On the first Sunday in January, Moshe Halpern strolled through the neighborhood to deliver cellophane-wrapped gift packages to his neighbors, each containing a bottle of bourbon and a set of chocolates. Tucked inside the ribbon was a card wishing recipients a happy new year and offering a subtle sales pitch, along with his cell number. "I would like to inform you that I am a personal home buyer," the handwritten note read. "You can call me anytime."

The solicitation was more overt in the flier from two real estate agents that arrived in mailboxes a little over a month later. "We have buyers ready to buy homes in the area," declared Angelo Acierno and Kamil Nicalek of Keller Williams Realty, both of them natives of Worley Heights. "Most are all Cash close in less than 30-60 days." Their flier warned residents, "Don't be fooled by under the table offers," and came with a handwritten sticky note that said, "We have an offer. Call us today!"

Real estate activity has kicked into high gear in Worley Heights, where residents say Hasidic homebuyers and their representatives have inundated them with unsolicited offers for their houses and snapped up homes that were on the market or became available. Anxious residents have packed local board meetings to protest what some see as illegal "block-busting" and a concerted effort to uproot them. For those determined to stay, the prospect of a rapid turnover has stoked concern about their future home values and the potential impact on Washingtonville School District.

"We still have kids in school," said Donna McGoldrick, who has lived in the neighborhood for 44 years. "What are we going to do? We're not moving."

Halpern, who appears to have bought at least five houses on a single street on behalf of a Brooklyn investor, dismisses the objections as overblown, saying that no one has to sell their home and that some of his neighbors are "acting a bit over the top." He says the neighborhood, a short distance from Kiryas Joel, has a lot of older, modestly priced homes that represent bargain opportunities for the ever-growing Hasidic community. He estimates that three quarters of the people interested in Worley Heights homes are from Brooklyn, the rest from Kiryas Joel.

"Everyone needs housing," he said. "And over here, the prices are low."


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