Q&A With Zara Realty
Zara Realty, a family owned and operated Real Estate Holding Company, has been serving the Queens rental community for over 36 years. Led by Tony Subraj, Jay Sobhraj, and Amir Sobhraj; Zara’s team of loyal, dedicated and professional staff is committed to being the leading housing provider in Queens.
The Subraj and Sobhraj families came to Queens as immigrants from Guyana, and they have spent a lifetime investing in neighborhoods that are home to a diverse population, including immigrants from all parts of the globe.
How has Zara’s consistent business model created a strong residential portfolio?
Tony: We have never sold a building we have purchased in Queens. Zara does not “flip” properties, we invest in them. That means we put in the time and the resources to upgrade our properties and improve them for tenants with an eye towards building long-term housing that we can be proud of and that our tenants will want to remain in.
Why does Zara invest in Jamaica, Elmhurst, and other neighborhoods where you own & operate a building(s)?
Amir: Queens is our home community. Our firm’s founder, George Subraj, bought his first building in this borough and over the decades, our company has continued to have a strong presence in Queens, particularly Jamaica and Elmhurst.
Tony: We believe strongly in the strength of this community: Its diversity, its economic vibrancy, its parks and retail, its potential to become even greater as we and others continue to invest.
What do you look for in a building before you buy? What criteria is important to you?
Tony: We buy buildings that are solid, well-built, and well located, preferably near parks, public transit and retail.
Amir: Often the buildings we buy may have strong foundations but were underinvested in by previous owners. These “diamonds on the rough” are all over New York City, especially in Queens.
What building features are important to have/install in the buildings that you own & operate?
Tony: New front doors and entryways, new laundry rooms and appliances, new roofs, facades, often new elevators. We believe in providing amenities that will attract tenants, such as gyms or exercise rooms, rooftop recreation space and common areas.
Amir: Just as importantly, investing in facades, roofs and other exterior elements can prevent leaking and damage, new windows can create energy efficiency, as can new boilers.
How has Zara been able to keep a low turnover/high retention rate?
Tony: What we are really trying to create are homes that tenants can be proud of, a place they want to stay and raise a family. By investing in buildings, we are continually seeking to make improvements, both in common areas and in individual apartments, so that people want to stay.
Amir: Our staff is extremely responsive to tenant needs and we actively foster a sense of community in our buildings, hosting Christmas parties, summer block parties, tenant appreciation events and other social gatherings to introduce neighbors to one another give all tenants a sense of home.
Why is it important for Zara to support its local community (events, sponsorships)?
Tony: Queens is our home, the communities where we live and work. Local organizations that support children, seniors, community engagement are all positive for Zara and its tenants.
Amir: We are very much a part of this community and we are always doing what we can to help its members succeed.
As a family business, how has Zara been able to stay true to its core values of service to its communities?
Tony: The charitable work that Zara family members lead and participate in extends from Queens to well beyond its borders. Philanthropic work carried out by Zara leadership include supporting local high school prep classes for students in Queens, donating computers to create a new computer lab at Richmond Hill High School, scholarships for local youth and many other activities. The Subraj Foundation sponsors medical missions to Guyana, providing life-saving eye care, kidney transplants and donating medical equipment to the local hospital.
Amir: The Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Foundation recently announced that it has created the first-ever degree program in Psychology at the University of Guyana, filling an enormous need in developing a mental health infrastructure for people in the country. This will benefit families both in Guyana and here in Queens, where immigrants make their home and support family members from around the globe.
How will Zara continue to grow in its current communities and into other communities?
Tony: We are always seeking opportunities to serve more tenants by creating affordable housing, whether through the purchase of existing buildings or new construction.
Amir: There is such a great need in our city for high-quality, affordable housing that do not see ourselves slowing down any time soon.