Nov. 7, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Amtrak has backed off its plan to jack up the rent for homeowners who lease the land adjacent to their homes under the trestles of Hell Gate Bridge, several politicians announced on Friday.
In August, Amtrak sent homeowners a 30-day notice of increased rent on the land, up to 100,000 percent more than what they had paid annually for decades. One resident’s rent went from $50 per year to $40,000 per year.
After opposition from local politicians, Amtrak has backed down and will not be lifting the rent. Instead, the rent will remain unchanged.
“Amtrak’s decision to hit the brakes on an unconscionable rent hike for working families in Astoria is not just welcome news, but also a great victory for our community,” said Congressman Joe Crowley, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and Council Member Costa Constantinides in a joint statement.
“Together, we raised our voices to ensure the time, effort, and money that these homeowners have put into maintaining these properties over the years are recognized.”
In exchange for stewarding and caring for the land, the residents paid a token amount, often $40 to $50, to lease the land each year, giving them an extended yard and relieving Amtrak of the cost and time put in to caring for the land.
Many families with the arrangement had been caring for the land for up to 80 years and several family generations, and the rent hikes from a token amount to tens of thousands of dollars came as a shock.
“This news lifts a huge weight off the shoulders of people who love their neighborhood and comes at the right time as we approach the holiday season. We thank Amtrak for listening to their concerns. And as it pertains to terms of the lease moving forward, we hope Amtrak will consider the value these homeowners bring as stewards of the property when determining a mutually agreeable course of action in the future,” the politicians’ statement concluded.