Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Administration Forecloses On Black And Latino Homeowners As He Runs For President

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[Black Homeowner News]
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Blacks and Latinos are losing their homes while he runs for president...
Photo: Facebook screenshot

Is Mayor de Blasio's administration seizing homes of Blacks and Latinos through shady partnerships with private real estate interests?

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s embarks on his recently launched 2020 presidential run, his administration is now reportedly foreclosing on Black and Latino residents of New York City.

Are Black, and Latino, residents being targeted to have their properties taken by private interests—who are close to the mayor?

According to a recent New York Daily News report, Mayor di Blasio’s administration has targeted for foreclosure at least 420 properties under a policy known as the Third Party Transfer (TPT) program. Data from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) shows these minority homeowners are in predominantly Black and Latino communities. Brooklyn, Bronx and upper Manhattan are the areas most affected by these foreclosures.

Some 66 homeowners have already lost their property through the TPT program.

A stated goal of the TPT program, which is directed by HPD, is said to be identifying qualified sponsors who want to partner with HPD to purchase and rehabilitate “distressed” properties. Officials say this is done to maintain homeowner affordability for low- and moderate-income households. Whether the program is being used like this for Black and Latino residents is now in serious doubt.

Minority homeowners, who lost their property through TPT, have complained they received little notice, or no notice, before they were being told their property was no longer their own. “A lot of these homeowners had no idea these properties were being taken out from under them,” said attorney Scott Kohanowski. “And the city takes all that equity. That’s the most appalling part.” Kohanowski is the director of the Homeowner Stability Project.

HPD, under the TPT program, has the power to seize properties where homeowners may’ve fallen behind on tax or utility bills. This is apparently the case for at least 66 Black and Latino homeowners. Sometimes the amounts owed are as little as a thousand dollars. In some cases, the homeowners really didn’t owe anything, but lost their homes through what may be perceived as bureaucratic errors—or, something much more egregious.

McConnell Dorce, 69, seems to have lost his four-unit property in Brooklyn, last year, in this manner. According to the Kings County Politics Newspaper, Mr. Dorce had already fully paid off his property, which he bought in 1975, for $25,000. He was planning to leave his property to his children, and grandchildren, who live in his building. However, last year he was informed that HPD was taking his property—now worth over $1 million—through the TPT program.

Dorce was under the impression since money was regularly being taken from his bank account, by the city, that they were being applied, regularly, to paying his property taxes. That wasn’t the case. What seems to have been happening is that: the payments were not being processed until some months after they were being taken out from Mr. Dolce’s account. Something beyond bureaucratic bungling seems to be present.

Dorce became aware something was wrong when he received notice that his property was already in the process of being transferred to Neighborhood Restore, a non-profit third-party, that works with the city. He contacted HPD. For several months nothing was apparently done. He was later told his property was no longer his—because it had been sold through HPD’s Foreclosure Acquisitions Analyst, Lorraine Seabrook-Fisher.

Ms. Seabrook-Fisher reportedly once worked for the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) non-profit. Reportedly, Mayor de Blasio has very close connections with FAC, which has millions in real estate assets. Reportedly, the mayor also hired former FAC Executive Director Michelle de la Uz to be New York City’s Planning Commissioner.

Mr. Dorce eventually made his way to the offices of Democratic City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel to tell his story about HPD. Councilwoman Ampry-Samuel now thinks there is an issue with HPD. The agency apparently had lied by telling City Council members that many of these homeowners were slumlords and absentee landlords with numerous violations.

“Some of the information HPD provided to the council seems false in so far as how the city can step in and take these homes. That’s what I’m looking into now and I want answers,” said Ampry-Samuel. “To have two community residents have valuable property that’s paid off in what world is it appropriate to take their homes away. I had a lien sale back in the Spring to help families save their properties and did not see this man’s [Dorce] name on the lien sale list.”

The second of the “community residents” Councilwoman Ampry-Samules’ referred to above is 74-year-old Marlene Saunders. Ms. Saunders had paid off her brownstone—now worth $2.2 million—but nearly lost her it in a similarly suspicious way as Mr. Dolce actually did. Fortunately for Ms. Saunders, along with the reporting by the Kings County Politics newspaper, she was able to enlist the help of Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr. Because of Councilman Cornegy’ intervention, Saunders still has her brownstone. After Councilman Cornegy interceded, an HPD spokesperson sent a message saying “Upon investigation, it appears the owner made a mistake in applying the necessary payment to the wrong property. It is obvious this was a simple error and so we will reverse the transfer so that the owner can sustain ownership of the property.”

But was it really just “a simple error?” Councilman Cornegy has stated that “The issue of deed fraud and deed theft in this city is pervasive.”

Lawyer Serge Joseph said he has Bronx clients, tenants of a co-op, who also lost their property. According to Joseph, the co-op board for these Bronx tenants said they similarly received no notice from the city.

“[They] thought their arrears [tax balances] were being taken care of,” Joseph said. "They entered into an agreement plan with the Department of Finance. Then out of the blue, they were informed that the co-op no longer owned the building, that the deed was transferred to Neighborhood Restore.” These tenants—who were homeowners, building up their equity—have now been reduced to renters.

Another lawyer, Yolande Nicholson, who focuses on foreclosure work, said she witnessed a suspicious legal occurrence two weeks before Christmas, on Dec. 14, 2017. That was when Ms. Nicholson said some 60 properties, and scores of other housing units, were foreclosed upon on the very same day. These homes were from the Central Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Kensington and Flatbush areas. Nicholson said she never saw anything like it in her 30 years as a lawyer. “The families and property owners were rendered nameless and left clueless by the Court proceedings and the judgment,” Nicholson said. “Looking at the court records, the foreclosures were done together. They were all done in one action. This family’s property was part of a pool presented by the City to Judge Partnow in a manner that is still extremely inexplicable.”

Current New York City foreclosure proceedings require the sending of initial summonses to be followed by a complaint process. Apparently, a legal loophole—or legal chicanery—seems to be allowing that process to be circumvented in these proceedings where Black and Latinos are losing their properties.

“I don’t know how they did it,” said Nicholson. “They devised a letter, under chapter 4, under section 11 of the administrative code and it appears they were able to walk it into the court. None of the normal procedures that would give the homeowner notice –an opportunity to redeem, an opportunity to respond–seems to have not been followed.”

But McConnell Dorce is not giving up his property without a fight. He has, along with two other plaintiffs, Cecilia Jones and Sherlivia Thomas-Murchinson, recently launched a $66 million class action lawsuit, in the U.S. Southern District of New York Federal District Court.

There are several troubling questions here.

Who are these private partners and sponsors that are connected to, and working with, HPD’s Third Party Transfer program? Are Black and Latino homeowners being swindled out of their hard-earned homes by greedy real estate interests? Is this also a tactic to further gentrify certain neighborhoods by stealing the property of hardworking Blacks and Latinos? Are corrupt corporate crooks friendly with the mayor behind this?

Mayor de Blasio must be asked all these questions. Especially, now that he is courting Black America’s votes to be the next president.

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