The Paratore family — Anthony, Michael, Mary and Rose — were born and raised in the single-family home their grandfather leased from Amtrak at 22-38 23rd St. in Astoria, below the right-of-way leading to the Hell Gate Bridge, in 1946. Since then the rent has not been raised since 1973. This all changed in early August when the Paratores and other residents received a letter from Amtrak informing the tenants their rent would be increased by as much as 100,000 percent starting in September.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) held a press conference in front of the Paratore home Thursday to give them and neighbor Loretta Csikortis, 22-52 23rd St., the chance to speak about their family history beneath the railroad tracks and the decades of care put into their homes. According to Anthony Paratore, his grandfather who leased the home following his service in World War II went through the trouble of planting a fig tree in the back yard which his grandchildren still enjoy, a sign of intended permanence.
For the Paratore family, rent was $25 per year. Now Amtrak plans to have it raised to $26,560 per year, which translates into $2,213 a month. Csikortis, who also lives in the home where she was born, said her rent is going up from $50 per year to $40,000 per year.
Under the lease agreements signed with Amtrak, the tenants in the single-family houses are responsible for the upkeep of the property in return for rent at a nominal fee.
“These are the kinds of tactics we expect from slumlords, not from Amtrak. The truth is Amtrak is railroading hardworking families into renewing a lease with an unprecedented and obscene rent increase, and that’s just not right,” Crowley said. “These homeowners are doing the job that Amtrak has a lousy track record of doing – maintaining their property. Amtrak claims the premises are substantially undervalued, but what’s clear is that the longstanding members of our community are the ones who are truly undervalued in this situation.”
The congressman urged Amtrak to “not just be a better landlord, but to be a better neighbor and treat our homeowners reasonably and respectfully.”
Crowley said the rent hikes do not just apply to the Paratores or Csikortis, but are a problem facing Amtrak tenants all along the corridor under the shade of the railroad tracks.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall
©2016 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.