Finding the Political Will to Standing Up to Zara Realty

Community members are outraged at Zara Realty for substandard apartments and exploitation of tenants. Credit: Mafuzal Islam campaign

As someone who worked in Housing Court as a Court Navigator, I have seen the impact of New York’s tale of two cities in which the wealthy have continued to get rich off the backs of the impoverished. In New York, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated many existing problems and have made them worse. Many tenants across New York -and across the country- are grappling with the loss of jobs as a result of the pandemic. In New York State, Govenor Cuomo’s moratorium on evictions -which is set to expire on June 20th- is causing much anxiety on top of the insecurity that New Yorkers are facing when it comes to food, healthcare, education, among other concerns.

In this year’s election there is so much at stake for the whole state of New York. Progressives are battling entrenched incumbents for control of Congress, the State Legislature and City Council among many other elected positions. Mafuzal Islam has emerged as a challenger to Assemblyman David Weprin, who has long consolidated power in Assembly District 24 and Mafuzal is calling for a New York that works alongside the working class, not the rich.

Candidates on the same slate for elections in A.D. 24 are Moumita Ahmed -an activist who was among the founding members of Millennials for Bernie- for District Leader, Mahtab Khan also a District Leader candidate and two attorneys who have long established a presence in the Richmond Hill community who are vying for Judicial Delegate, Ali Najmi and Ravisharon Kaur Khunkhun.

A.D. 24 slate commissioned a Punjabi poster to reach voters who have limited english proficiency. Credit: AD 24 Democratic Slate

Zara Reality

The real estate company prides itself on ‘luxury living in eastern queens’ but fails to live up to what is promised. According to David Brand of Queens Daily Eagle:

Mafuzal Islam is challenging Assembly Member Weprin from the left. Credit: Mafuzal Islam campaign

Zara Realty’s issues have been so widespread that the Attorney General Tish James had to intervene by bringing a lawsuit against the company. As recently as last month, a judge denied Zara Realty’s attempt at dismissing the lawsuit brought against them by the AG:

As one can come to expect, in this fight Assemblyman David Weprin was no where to be found.

Organizers Fight Back

Rima Begumji is a Tenant Organizer in eastern Queens. She mobilized her community to take action against Zara Realty by forming a tenants union and is actively involved in fighting back against Zara Realty’s overtures against its tenants. Her organizing became national news when then-candidate Bernie Sanders put a spotlight on what is happening to tenants across the country, with the most egregious being the one in the world’s borough of Queens.

Then presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pointed out the inhumane conditions faced by the Bengali community who is actively organizing against Zara Realty.

The protest that took place today has direct consequences for the race between Mafuzal Islam and David Weprin as an increasingly vocal South Asian population in Queens finds its political voice and isn’t afraid to call out politicians who are taking campaign contributions from a leasing company that is exploitative.

Candidate for District Leader Mahtab Khan voice his anger against Zara Realty. Credit: Mafuzal Islam campaign

In running the numbers it is estimated that Zara Realty:

If these costs tell us anything, it is that companies like Zara Realty need to be held more accountable -not less. Just because a corporation does the occasional philanthropy does not mean it treats those under their ward fairly.

During the protest Judicial Candidate Ali Najmi blasted Zara Realty and Assemblyman David Weprin:

Today’s protest hopefully brought to light why voting is super critical and for South Asians who are renting with this company, that they need someone in the Assembly who will advocate for them like Mafuzal Islam and we need district leaders like Moumita and Mahtab with Judicial Delegates with powerhouses like Ali Najmi and Ravisharon Kaur Khunkhun.

If you missed the absentee ballot deadline, you can still visit NYC Votes to find out where you can go for early voting.

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Navjot Pal Kaur

Navjot Pal Kaur

Kaur Republic has now transitioned to Substack. Please follow us there to become a monthly or yearly subscriber: https://kaurrep.substack.com/

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