Sunset Park pols have successfully negotiated a 27-day lease extension for a 24-year commercial tenant at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 38th Street Train Yard who had been facing an abrupt termination.
Councilmember Alexa Avilés and Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes penned a letter on June 1 to MTA Chair Janno Lieber on behalf of Raymond Lau, who has run a parking lot at the MTA train yard since 1998, requesting the agency reconsider the termination of his lease as they and their property management company, Greystone Management, did not conduct proper communications with the tenant. Lau’s lease had been set to end on June 3.
“Earlier this month it came to our offices’ attention that the Metropolitan Transit Authority through its third party real estate agent Greystone Management, sent a 30-day notice of termination to Sunset Park business owner Raymond Lau,” the electeds wrote. “Mr. Lau and his customers have been ordered to vacate the premises by June 3. Mr. Lau has operated a parking lot on 5th Avenue and 38th Street since 1998. Parking lot users include teachers at nearby PS 24 and local small business owners.”
Lau received notice of 18 violations that needed to be remediated in October 2020 and resolved all but two of those issued by April 2021, according to the pol’s letter, but the MTA and their property management company Greystone Management reportedly did not respond when Lau asked for instructions to remediate fire code violations in the two buildings on his lot. and instead, Instead, a year later, Lau received a notice of the termination of his lease.
“It is our understanding that Mr. Lau has been a tenant in good standing until recently,” the letter reads. “Given this and the fact his business services many members of our districts we respectfully request that the termination be reconsidered such that Mr. Lau can continue his longstanding business and good faith efforts to remedy outstanding fire code issues on the property.”
Avilés and Mitanyes asked the MTA to reconsider their lease termination in its entirety, as they argue that Lau acted in good faith, and allow him to continue his business and his effort to bring the two buildings on his property — which Lau says were there before his lease began — up-to-code, or at the very least postpone the termination until city schools let out on June 30, and providing more time to Lau’s other tenants who said leaving by June 3 was not possible.
“Should the MTA proceed with his eviction, we ask that at the very least an extension be granted to the lease through June 30, 2022, such that teachers at nearby schools do not have to experience disruption for the remainder of the school year,” the elected officials wrote. “Many of Mr. Lau’s other tenants need more time to properly vacate by this Friday and some have cited the inability to do so in short order.”
The MTA elected to go with the latter option, issuing Lau a 27-day extension for the parking lot, but not including his use of the two buildings on his property as they are in violation of the current fire code, according to an agency representative.
Avilés applauded the MTA’s change of heart, with a spokesperson telling Brooklyn Paper that the move gives them until next year to figure out teachers’ best option for driving to school.
“It’s some relief that teachers will continue to be able to park at Mr. Lau’s lot through the end of the school year, which gives us some time to plan for next year,” the spokesperson said in a statement, “And we’ll continue to engage MTA about this and other properties.”
The press representative added that a number of agencies own property on Sunset Park’s waterfront and aren’t always tapped into the community’s needs.
“The big picture here is that the South Brooklyn waterfront is owned by a patchwork of entities who don’t always make decisions based on what’s best for our community at large,” the spokesperson added.
The elected officials said in their letter that they have been told that once the property is vacated, the MTA will use half of lot for their own needs, and will rent out the other half in another 10-year lease.
Avilés and Mitaynes ask that the MTA to consider issuing a shorter lease and working with their offices to brainstorm community solutions for the space such as affordable housing or a community park.
“Our neighborhood has many needs, and parking is only one of them. If MTA does not reverse Mr. Lau’s termination, we would like the opportunity to explore the best use of this space for the community,” the letter stated. “We request the MTA consider a shorter lease on the property and that MTA engage in a public process to consider other uses for the site such as for housing, schools or green space.”