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Amtrak raises rent 100,000 % for tenants below Hell Gate Bridge right-of-way

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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 mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 3:57 pm, August 25, 2016
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Reader feedback

Kapikap from Astoria says:
Amtrak is raising your rent and you are complaining?
Some dont realize how good you have it. Thats a $ 1,000,000 dollar home you are sitting on! Your father got a deal, but how long do you expect it to last? Thats so greedy, move on already!

Incredible the tears that are shed after skating on rent for so long. That property is not rent stabilized, thats a big home for the price you are paying. Its not yours.
Aug. 26, 2016, 11:33 am
Regina Paratore Schantz says:
@ kapikap,
The article is incorrect. The lease is ONLY for the land under the bridge. Our Grandfather built that house on his own property adjacent to it. The house IS owned NOT rented.
Aug. 27, 2016, 7:36 am
Anonymous says:
Regina Paratore: are you really going to argue that $25 - $50 / year is a fair market price? Judging from google maps you have at least 5 vehicles parked there. That use alone is worth **at least** $500 / month.
Aug. 29, 2016, 12:42 pm
me from Astoria says:
Anonymous you are looking at wrong address in google
Aug. 29, 2016, 2:39 pm

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