Adding zeroes: Amtrak jacks up rent for Queens homeowners

Astoria residents report rent hikes from $25 to $25,560 a year

The Hell Gate Bridge and Amtrak's Joseph Boardman
The Hell Gate Bridge and Amtrak's Joseph Boardman

Think the price of Amtrak tickets has gotten steep? The railroad is raising rates for a group of Queens residents who have leased space under the Hell Gate Bridge for generations for as little as $25 a year.

Earlier this month, Amtrak reportedly sent letters to homeowners whose properties are adjacent to the bridge informing them of the change, DNAinfo reported. One Astoria resident says the railroad company bumped up her rent to $25,560 a year from $25, while another homeowner reports a $50-to-$45,000 hike. “I thought it was a typing error, to be honest,” said the resident now facing a $45,000-a-year bill.

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In a statement, Amtrak said it was raising rents for some lease holders who hadn’t seen a change in 70 years despite rising market values for the properties. “To ensure reasonable leases at fair market value, these lease holders, who currently pay approximately $25 a year, can expect to be charged a fraction (less than 1 percent) of the fair market rental rates,” the company said.

Several residents have been renting out the spaces as parking spots or using for other commercial purposes, but some local elected officials called the rent hike a “money grab.”

“These families who’ve been affected have been stewards of this land,” Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas told DNAInfo. “It’s uncalled for.” [DNAInfo] — E.B. Solomont