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Briar Wyck’s sale raises concern among residents

"Everything is working kind of good right now," said Loretta Campbell, 51, a writer who has lived in the Briar Wyck building at 86-25 Van Wyck Expressway for eight years. "I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Campbell said she became panicked when she heard that building owner Robert Trump, the brother of Donald Trump, was planning on selling the apartments in January to real estate investor Rubin Schron, who bought the 140-building Fresh Meadows complex in early 2002.

"My rent is pretty low compared with people in the rest of the boroughs," said Campbell, who lives in a rent-stabilized studio apartment in the Trump building. "In a case where you're trying to get yourself on a firm footing, this kind of news can be kind of upsetting.

"Usually, when the new owners come in, they want to make you either pay though the nose or they don't want to honor your leases. They say, 'We're going to raise your rent even more or we're going to move someone else into your apartment.' It's kind of scary."

With seven floors and three units, each with its own elevator, the Briar Wyck has about 210 apartment units occupied by a diverse population, including a number of airline pilots and stewardesses, said Robert Kenler, a resident of the building since 1984.

When Fred Trump, the father of Robert and Donald Trump, took over the building more than 30 years ago, apartments were rented out on three to six-month leases that catered to short-term tenants such as airline employees, said Kenler.

Today most of the tenants are families who have lived in the building for five to 30 years, said Campbell. Apartments are rented through DSJ Realty, LLC, an exclusive broker for Trump properties in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

According to the broker's Web site, Briar Wyck apartments that are currently available include an $800-a-month studio and $1,200-a-month one-bedrooms.

A secretary at Robert Trump's agency in Brooklyn said she did not know why the Trump family had decided to sell the Briar Wyck property.

"I really don't know what to tell you. I've never been there," said the secretary.

Officials at Robert Trump's agency did not return calls for comment.

A woman who answered the phone at Donald Trump's office in Manhattan said he only deals with real estate in Manhattan.

Schron could not be reached through the Fresh Meadows complex management office.

Kenler, Campbell and several other Briar Wyck tenants said the Trumps had managed the building well and they would be sorry to see the managers leave.

"It's a nice building. As far as I can tell, it's pretty well maintained," said Campbell. "We have certain amenities - laundry on the lobby floor and a garage."

Three years ago rents for the apartments were raised after a major capital improvement was made to the building, said Campbell. Rents were never lowered after the assessments were paid off.

"One lady got an increase of $17 per month, two or three times," said Campbell. "They said (the increase) was going to be folded into the rent permanently."

Campbell said when she was unable to pay rent for a number of months because she was out of a job, the owners and management of the building were very reasonable, professional and even compassionate.

"It's good to have a landlord or managing agent that you have a rapport with," said Campbell. "If the new people come in, the first thought is will they be people who care about the people who live in the building?"

According to tenants of the Fresh Meadows apartment complex owned by Schron, rents for apartments in the complex increased after Schron took over two years ago and a boiler unit for hot water, considered a major capital improvement, was installed in the complex.

Also, since Schron bought the Fresh Meadows complex, apartments in the complex are no longer rented out through the management office. Instead people seeking to rent must go through a broker and pay a broker's fee.

Campbell said she did not know what to expect with Schron as the new owner of the Briar Wyck, but she feared rents would go up as they had in Fresh Meadows.

"Most people who live here have to deal with certain restraints on their income," said Campbell. "It's essential that we have affordable housing."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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