East New York is now a cease and desist zone — so what does that mean for residents trying to keep their homes?

Homeowners in parts of Brooklyn’s Community Board 5 have the chance to opt into a list that bans real estate solicitors from trying to purchase their homes.

Allison Dikanovic
7 min readNov 27, 2020

To register your home for the Cease and Desist list, click here. For more information, keep reading.

Photo by Allison Dikanovic

Homeowners in East New York can now register to join the neighborhood’s cease and desist zone—a “do not call,” “do not solicit” registry that bans real estate investors from trying to buy homes from owners on the list.

Mercedes Sandoz, a longtime East New York resident and mother of five, spoke out early in the spring about the need she saw for a cease and desist zone in her neighborhood, because of what she described as a “takeover” from investors hoping to buy and flip homes. She said things have only gotten worse since the pandemic.

“They still send mail, and I still receive phone calls regarding selling the house,” she said. “The pandemic has taken a toll on my family financially, mentally and emotionally. Investors see it as a golden opportunity to take advantage of our vulnerabilities.”

Mercedes Sandoz stands outside her home. (Photo by Allison Dikanovic)

Another homeowner, Ethel Cooks, registered her home after seeing her block on Vermont Street change.

Cooks said real estate investors have gutted and flipped two homes nearby, and an 11-unit building is sprouting up on a lot that used to sit empty.

“They come in groups. They come in suits. They come up and down the block. They send letters on the regular,” she said of the investors trying to buy. “I registered my home on the cease and desist list so they can stop.”

This is what homeowners need to know about the zone…

So just to be clear, what is a cease and desist zone?

A cease and desist zone is an area where real estate investors, developers and agents are prohibited by law from trying to purchase a home from anyone who is registered on a special cease and desist list. The New York Department of State grants this homeowner protection to specific areas based on evidence of “unwanted, intense and repeated solicitations.” Part of Community Board 5 was declared a cease and desist zone in November. It’s the only cease and desist zone in Brooklyn.

What exactly does that mean?

If you are a homeowner in East New York and you register your home on the cease and desist list, real estate investors can’t contact you to try to purchase your home. They legally can’t call, knock on your door or leave marketing materials on your property without risking fines, criminal charges or loss of real estate licenses.

“The zone puts us in a place of really balancing things out in terms of how real estate should actually practice,” said Jessica Franco, director of community affairs for state senator Julia Salazar. “When a homeowner really wants to sell their property, they can reach out to a real estate company and say, ‘Look I’m interested in selling,’ but it’s not something that they’re preyed on or harassed for.”

How did East New York get the cease and desist zone?

Residents and organizers from the Coalition for Community Advancement worked for years to get this protection for CB 5, collecting surveys, sending in public commentary, and testifying at a public hearing about the extent of harassment that homeowners were facing from real estate investors trying to buy homes.

The zone is meant to prevent investors from harassing homeowners, and to slow down house flipping (when investors buy and quickly re-sell homes at much higher values). According to research from the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, East New York has one of the highest rates of home flipping in the city. The same study found real estate speculators sold homes at prices up to 50% higher than similar non-flip sales in East New York.

“It’s about giving people choices,” Franco said of the zone. “It allows everyone to know that they have a choice and that they can have a say in what happens to their home. That’s how you build power.”

What parts of CB 5 are covered by the zone?

The zone starts at the Queens border of Brooklyn to the east and the intersection of Jamaica Avenue to the north. It continues west along Jamaica Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. Then south along Pennsylvania Avenue to Sutter Avenue, and west on Sutter Avenue to Van Sinderen Avenue, south on Van Sinderen Avenue down to Linden Boulevard, east along Linden Boulevard to the Queens border and north along the border to the point of the beginning on Jamaica Avenue, as pictured on the map below.

Courtesy of the New York Department of State

Is everyone in the zone automatically covered by cease and desist protections?

No. Homeowners need to register their home to be put on the cease and desist list. It’s an easy process that takes less than five minutes. The Department of State updates the list that is available to the public every month.

How do you register your home for the cease and desist list?

You can register your home using this link, or you can call 518–473–2728 to request a registration form from the Department of State.

Link to register your home: bit.ly/enyceaseanddesist

Who is all banned from soliciting homes under cease and desist?

According to Department of State officials, the zone prohibits anyone who regularly buys and sells property. This includes real estate brokers, salespeople, investment companies and other individuals.

They are not allowed to call, send letters, knock on doors, leave materials on someone’s property or directly solicit a home in any other way, including in person, on the phone or through writing. Investors cannot solicit directly themselves, and they cannot solicit through an agent, i.e. sending someone else to solicit on their behalf.

The cease and desist prohibition does not include individuals looking to purchase a home for their own use, i.e. to live there.

What can you do if someone is continuing to solicit you after you’ve signed up for the list?

You can report the person using this complaint form.

Link to complaint form: bit.ly/ceaseanddesistcomplaint

Keep any examples of continued solicitation to show as evidence.

Then, you can mail the complaint form and examples of solicitation (such as flyers, pamphlets, etc.) to the Department of State at:


Then the department will conduct an investigation to look into it.

What if I live outside the bounds of the cease and desist zone but am experiencing solicitation and harassment from real estate investors?

Senator Julia Salazar’s office and the Coalition for Community Advancement are continuing to collect evidence of solicitation to make a case to expand the cease and desist zone.

You can email Alexa Sloan at coalitioncommunityadvancement@gmail.com to share more about harassment or solicitation you’ve been experiencing.

Can tenants register the homes they live in?

No, according to Department of State officials, only the owner of the property can register it. The Cease and Desist zone is intended to protect owners from feeling pressured to sell their homes. It doesn’t include tenants because tenants don’t own the home and therefore couldn’t be pressured to sell it.

How does the Department of State determine who is part of the prohibition? Do they distinguish between licensed real estate agents and investors without licenses?

The decision of who is banned from soliciting homes on the cease and desist list is determined by New York Department of State officials through the investigation process, after a complaint is filed.

According to Department of State officials, when the department receives a complaint, they conduct an investigation to see if the person or business “regularly engages” in the practice of buying and selling real estate. The department considers how often someone has tried to buy homes, if the person sends out advertisements and any other relevant information they can find to determine if a person or business “regularly engages” in buying and selling property.

Have more questions about how cease and desist works?

Email Allison Dikanovic at adikanovic@thecity.nyc, Alexa Sloan at coalitioncommunityadvancement@gmail.com or text HOME to 73224.

If you are looking for support to protect your home in East New York or other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, here are some groups offering help:

• Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation runs an East New York Homeowner Help Desk: 718–647–8100.

• Neighborhood Housing Services Brooklyn can connect you to housing counselors: 718–469–4679.

• Center for New York City Neighborhoods can connect you to local organizations that offer mortgage help, legal services and foreclosure and scam-prevention services: 646–786–0888.

Photo by Allison Dikanovic

Allison Dikanovic is a graduate student at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She reported on cease and desist for THE CITY after hearing from East New York residents who were concerned about real estate speculation and property loss at a meeting for the Open Newsroom, a project working to make local news collaborative.



Allison Dikanovic

becoming a better listener & making journalism more of a service at @newmarkjschool. new york via milwaukee.