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Queens Resident Wonders About Rights in Changing Building

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Conversions and the threat of them are all the rage in the Ask Curbed portion of our inbox these days. (Have a question? To the tipline!) The latest question comes from a reader in Queens who worries about the changes coming to her older building:

In October, my husband and I moved from a luxury 1-bedroom high-rise to a jr. 1 in an older building in the same neighborhood. We were tired of all the corporate BS that comes with the large, overly-managed buildings, and our new apartment seemed like a perfect solution - much lower rent, a hippie super who lived on-site and was willing to accept packages, and the confidence that nothing in this building had changed in over 30 years. The super, and some of the tenants, had all been around since the 70's and seemed to really like the place. It all started to change in January, when the owner of the building passed away. His son has now decided to make some changes - he fired the super, replacing him with some guy he found off Craigslist who has yet to introduce himself and doesn't live in the building. He has also been showing the building to prospective buyers, at times leading them through what I previously thought was my private backyard - we're on the first floor and have the only door into the yard, but the cellar also has a small hatch which he's allowed real estate agents and prospectives to use as an entrance, poking around unannounced.

The landlord also, separately, informed us that he intends to open the backyard up to the whole building, telling us "you'll love it!" when we protested. His proffered solution is to build a wall around our porch, which would block 50% of the light that the house gets. It's a shotgun setup, and half the light comes in through the garden windows. If the building is sold, it's sure to be a teardown. We're in a neighborhood in Queens that is positively blowing up, and I think the new owner has dollar signs in his eyes. So, with that said, my questions are:

1) What are our rights with regards to the intended changes in the building? The private backyard isn't spelled out in our lease (doh!), but it was definitely described as such in the apartment ads and we had no reason to think otherwise. Again, nothing in this building has changed in 30 years, and the super at the time assured us that the backyard had always been private. We've also gone from a super we liked and trusted to one we don't know.

2) If the building is sold and intended for teardown, do we have any rights as non-stabilized tenants? We signed a 2-year lease, so I'm hoping they would at least have to make us some sort of buyout offer - but, all the resources I found online only discuss rent-stab tenant's rights. Do we have any hope as non-stab'ers?


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