Brooklyn Boro

Bed-Stuy real estate company honors Judge Thompson at grand opening

November 13, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Keith Wachtel, Victoria Zavelina, Hon. William C. Thompson and Denise Felipe-Adams at the opening of Stuyvesant Heights Realty on Halsey Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the judge was honored by the new owners. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese.
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Retired Administrative Judge William C. Thompson was honored at the grand opening of Stuyvesant Heights Realty in front of many local politicians and community members on Halsey Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Thursday night.

“The judge has been our friend for the longest time,” said Victoria Zavelina, who along with her husband Keith Wachtel, owns Stuyvesant Heights Realty. “[My husband and I] met him through foreclosure auctions in the early 2000s. He ended up representing him in various matters. After that we became good friends.

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“He’s been so great for us over the years and we never really had an opportunity to thank him,” Zavelina continued. “It’s one thing to say thank you, but it’s another thing to do it in front of people and the community.”

It would be an understatement to say that real estate is a hot commodity in Brooklyn, and Bed-Stuy follows that trend. However, the brownstone neighborhood is seeing more restoration than other neighborhoods, where it is common to see old buildings replaced with sparkling new “luxury” condos. Stuyvesant Heights Realty is more focused on restoration than condos, which is why the judge was so eager to help promote the new business.

“They’re attempting to maintain Bed-Stuy,” Thompson said. “It’s not renovate, it’s restore. So often we see complete renovations where the house barely resembles what it used to. You can’t replace old molding with sheetrock and call it the same thing.”

Thompson, who has lived on Putnam Avenue since 1939, has a long history of helping to restore Bed-Stuy, going back to 1964 when he helped to create the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation with Robert Kennedy. The group used federal money to go block by block and help restore houses in the neighborhood.

“What they did was they would come to your block association and say, ‘For $25 I’m going to paint your windows, do your sidewalk and take care of the outside of your house, but the whole block has to agree.’ That’s what we did. We restored entire blocks, and today you can go past those same blocks and tell that it was a restoration block,” Thompson said.

In addition to helping to restore old homes, Stuyvesant Heights Realty will also attempt to help members of the neighborhood from becoming victims to predatory short sales.

“It seems like, the people of Bed-Stuy in particular, were being taken advantage of because you have investors who come in, push people toward short sales and make tremendous money off of distressed homeowners,” Zavelina said.

“We were hoping to bring them in here and tell them that they don’t have to short sale their house. Your house is worth $1 million and maybe more. Just because your pipes are leaking, it’s not the end of the world. That only cost $10,000 and not $200,000. Basically, we try to give them the investor point of view to make them aware of what they really have.”

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