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

Here’s one way to fill all those empty Billyburg apartments
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

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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