A Far Rockaway couple say they’re being harassed by their next-door neighbors who are accused of illegally renting a home purchased through a city program that requires the owners to live there for 25 years.
Dianna and Pam Prashad, who are in the same program, say that means they’re now stuck with “neighbors from hell” — and unable to move elsewhere.
“This home was our happy place,” Dianna Prashad, 45, said of the two-story, blue-and-white semi-attached home in Edgemere that she bought in 2007.
But since March 2020, just as the pandemic lockdown went into effect, the Prashads say they’ve faced harassment — including anti-gay slurs — from tenants next door. The neighbors moved in after the owner relocated to Delaware despite the requirement that she stay in the home for 25 years, the Prashads say.
The couple said they are receiving “constant threats” from the next-door neighbors, who they believe are targeting them because of their sexuality.
The alleged harassment began soon after the new tenants moved in, according to the Prashads. The couple say they called the police on April 22, 2020 after their next-door neighbors allegedly threatened to assault Pam while she was outside her home, they said.
“Come and get this ass-whooping, d---,” one neighbor allegedly yelled at Pam Prashad.
Another time, the same tenant said of Pam, “that b---- needs a good ass-whupping,” the couple said.
In April, the tenants began yelling at the couple for no apparent reason as they planted flowers in front of their home, according to footage captured on the Prashads’ security camera and reviewed by THE CITY.
“We’ve been directly targeted,” Pam Prashad, 50, said.
Police a Frequent Presence
They say they’ve also called the police multiple times to break up loud parties that often go into the early morning, even on weekdays, according to the Prashads.
Those calls haven’t helped.
“The police come every other day,” said one neighbor, Armando Cruz, who lives on the other side of the Prashads, although the home isn’t attached.
But he said he hadn’t heard loud music and wasn’t bothered by the people living two-doors down.
Another neighbor, Angel, who declined to give his last name, has lived across the street for more than a decade and said he sometimes hears parties and motorcycle engines revving outside in the summer.
“I don’t feel it, because they’re not next to me,” he said.
Other neighbors both on the block and around the corner said they weren’t aware of any loud parties, but knew about the dispute between the two households.
Since January, there have been seven complaint reports filed for harassment at the location, according to an NYPD spokesperson. A police source said residents of both homes have called the cops on each other.
A woman who answered the door at the home the Prashads call problematic declined to comment after speaking to her lawyer.
Couple Faults City
The tenants in that home are renting through a CityFHEPS voucher, officials confirmed. The Prashads said that points to a left-hand-right-hand failure on the part of City Hall for failing to check if the home was legally allowed to be rented.
Dianna Prashad purchased her house through a first-time home buyer program administered by the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, which teamed with private developers to build on city-owned land.
Those who bought homes through the program had to meet income requirements and then received a grant from the city to help them put a down payment. But it came with a clause that required them to remain in the home for at least 25 years — with the grant reduced each year they stayed.
A spokesperson for HPD noted that the majority of homeowners who have bought homes through these types of programs are in compliance, and the programs have been important in helping people afford a piece of real estate in an increasingly expensive city.
“Homeownership is a powerful tool to stabilize neighborhoods and help New Yorkers build equity and intergenerational wealth,” the spokesperson, Anthony Proia, said.
When owners don’t comply, “the city will pursue legal action to ensure compliance,” he said.
COVID-19 and the statewide eviction moratorium has also further complicated the tenants’ situation, an official said, but the Prashads believe the city should find comparable housing for the tenants so they can be left alone.
And the larger issue is the city’s own lack of enforcement on its own covenant of home ownership, the couple said.
The Prashads said they’ve only been asked once to verify they lived in the home, back in 2010. This lack of enforcement has allowed some people to take advantage of the program, while they and others have suffered, Dianna Prashad said.
“Given the primary residence clauses in our contracts, I should not have had to report the breaches on my block as it was HPD’s responsibility to monitor these contracts for compliance,” she added.
‘I No Longer Feel Safe’
She feels stuck in the home, she said. To move, she would have to first find a buyer willing to take on the 11 years left on her deed, and then pay off her mortgage and the money remaining on the city-issued grant to first buy the home — totaling close to $200,000, she said.
Dianna Prashad said she spent close to $100,000 after the home was severely damaged due to Hurricane Sandy, and current real estate prices around New York City make it nearly impossible for her to buy elsewhere.
HPD investigates complaints about homeowners violating the owner-occupancy agreements and also when there are changes to the mortgage, Proia said.
HPD says it’s currently pursuing legal action against the next-door neighbor in question, Gail McMillan, who paid off her existing mortgage but is still required to live in the house if she owns it.
City property records show she took out a second mortgage on the home in March, where she listed her primary residence as Delaware — and that the Queens property is an investment to receive rental income.
McMillan declined to comment when reached by phone.
The Prashads sued the city over the situation in September 2020. The couple filed an appeal in the case this past August after a judge ruled in favor of the city’s motion to dismiss the claim, according to court documents.
“This has affected my job, the city is aware of this but they don’t care,” Dianna Prashad, who works from home in a government job, said.
The couple has received the support of local elected officials, including Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Long Island), who sent a letter to the mayor in October on behalf of the Prashads.
“This ongoing situation has not only been extremely disruptive to the lives of Ms.
Prashad and her partner, but it is unacceptable that the city has allowed it to continue,” they wrote, demanding the city find a new home for the tenants.
“I no longer feel safe in my own home,” Dianna Prashad said.