A Media Cautionary Tale
After our February 4th issue went to press with the article, Another Real Estate Cautionary Tale, we learned that the reporter failed to disclose that he was a tenant in the building with interactions with the previous owner and the new owner.
While he maintains that the information in the article is true, he has apologized for the ethical lapse and for not informing the publishers and our readership of his relationship and personal interest in the story.
In the interest of fairness, we are publishing a neighbor’s Letter to the Editor and the response from the real estate broker named in the article.
Our Time Press apologizes to our readers for not properly vetting the reporter’s work.
David Mark Greaves & Bernice Elizabeth Green
To the Publishers: I was surprised to receive a copy of the news article three days ago written by Joe Gonzalez in the Our Time Press regarding the sale of a building at 1 Agate Ct. The author of the article, Joe Gonzalez, made no effort to contact me or the new owner of the building regarding the allegations in the article about our conduct–which are not true.
Worse, the article omitted the fact that Mr. Gonzalez himself is currently a tenant of (and arguably a squatter in) the building who refuses to pay rent to the new owner. In fact, he has demanded that the new owner pay him $30,000 to relocate, and has informed the new owner that he will not pay a dime and the new owner can’t do anything about it. The new owner, eager to avoid further confrontation and financial hardship, offered Joe the sum of $10,000 to relocate. Mr. Gonzalez’ monthly rent to the prior owner was $600. Thus, the $30,000 he seeks is more than four years’ worth of rent that he was paying to the previous owner.
It seems clear to me that Mr. Gonzalez is attempting to utilize the state’s moratorium on evictions due to Covid-19 to his advantage. There are many individuals experiencing financial hardships during this pandemic.
It is understood that the moratorium is a lifeline for many individuals and families to keep a roof over their heads. However, it is important to highlight the unscrupulous individuals who are trying to take advantage of this pandemic. Many people know that the New York city housing court system is extremely tenant friendly. What recourse do small landlords have when they too have bills to pay and rely on the income from tenants to pay their mortgage?
As a real estate professional for over 15 years, I have encountered numerous examples of small landlords who were at the verge of losing their home due to tenants and squatters using the housing court system to their advantage. This pandemic has only exacerbated the unscrupulous behaviors from tenants and squatters whose intent is to take advantage of a broken housing court system.
I met Ms. Cothron, the prior owner of the building, in 2018 in front of her home and I kept in contact with her at least twice a year. I reached out to her in October 2020 and she informed me that she was ready to return back home to Georgia and she was ready to sell her home. She told me she needed to sell quickly so she could be home with her family for the holidays. This home is a multi-family, so I asked if the property would be delivered vacant because that would affect the price of the home. She told me it would be delivered vacant. Unfortunately, she was met with resistance when she informed her tenants she was selling. The new owner was willing and able both to purchase the property on short notice and to take ownership of the house subject to tenancy. To his surprise he was met with even greater resistance from one individual in particular by the name of Joe Gonzalez. According to the owner, Mr. Gonzalez has continuously harassed him for his own personal benefit.
Mr. Gonzalez’s article made insinuations that Ms. Cothron’s home was sold at 50% below market value. As a realtor I pride myself on providing my clients with aggressive returns on the sale of their homes. In my professional opinion, the property in question was appropriately priced, and the seller rightly decided to sell her home to the buyer at 850,000.00. At the time, I thought that Ms. Cothron was happy with the sale because she wanted leave a legacy of providing a young minority family an opportunity of home ownership in the ever changing terrain of Bedford Stuyvesant.
Mr. Gonzalez’s article was very troubling to read. As an African American woman and minority business owner, the unsubstantiated claims that were made are both hurtful and damaging to my reputation. The thought of elderly woman being taken advantage of at my hands are unfathomable and utterly repulsive. Now that I and Mr. Germain have had a chance to tell our side of the story, , I think Mr. Gonzalez should be held accountable. Reputation and journalistic integrity are the backbone of a free society. Any individual who uses an impartial platform to advance their ill intentions and ulterior motives should be publicly disavowed and rebuked.
Note to Readers: Clarification
I am Joe Gonzalez, a contributor to Our Time Press. In last week’s edition (2-4-2021), I authored an article entitled: “Another Real Estate Cautionary Tale”.
I maintained then and now the article is accurate and was largely drawn from my interviews with the now former owner of 1 Agate Court, Ms. Lois Cothron. I am familiar with her because I have resided in the building as a tenant for the past two years. Despite writing an accurate article, I did make an error–as a writer–I did not reveal that I reside in the subject building which upon reflection and review with senior journalists has installed in me a regret. Journalistic ethics mandate writers reveal any personal connection to their reporting, and I failed to honor the self-disclosure ethics. I apologize to the Publishers and the readership of Our Time Press for this lapse.
Ironically, it was my residence in that building that positioned me to learn of the matter at hand. The core of the article I believe remains true, namely Ms. Cothron’s now former fifty-year residence is properly valued in the $2,200,000. range and was transferred to a limited liability corporation for $850,000. I based the statement on a review of the public records of the New York City Building Department (NYC DOB). I also assert that the NYC DOB records reveal at least two other Agate Court buildings were sold for amounts in excess of one million dollars in the past two years. Those buildings are located mid-block while 1 Agate Court is a corner building with an attached two-car garage.
Ms. Cothron surfaced this week in Georgia and seems to be well except for a strong feeling that she was taken advantage of.
To the Publishers: I read with interest the story printed in today’s Our Time Press (February 4-February10) entitled “Another Real Estate Cautionary Tale,” by Joe Gonzalez.
The information delineated in the article is misleading.
The former owner of the residence at 1 Agate Court, Ms. Lois Cothron, retired as a lifelong preschool educator. Her investment in the community of Bedford Stuyvesant is widespread and includes civic, social justice, and ecumenical life areas.
When this well-loved, honored and respected owner decided to return to her home state, she made another pivotal investment in her community.
While she could have utilized a real estate agency to sell the home she had lived in for more than 50 years at top dollar, she took a road less traveled. She willingly sold it to a young family as she appreciated the potential and promise she saw in them.
To this Black Man and his family, she, with sound mind, decided on a moderate market price. She has been content and satisfied with her decision. Her actions leave a marvelous legacy for the new family. We warmly welcome them.
Thank you, Ms. Cothron. You have reminded us to search ourselves for the times when our decisions can be lifechanging for others.
Agate Court Neighbor