Protesters: Homes in gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods ‘stolen’ by city’s TPT program

Crowd Chanting, Waving Signs Outside Brooklyn Supreme Court

February 13, 2019 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Protesters at Brooklyn Supreme Court Wednesday morning demanded that courts return homes confiscated from Brooklyn residents through the Third Party Transfer program. Many of the now-valuable homes had paid-off mortgages but were confiscated due to a late water bill or tax payment. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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“We want our deeds back!”

Homes in gentrifying black and brown communities in Brooklyn are being “stolen” from their rightful owners through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Third Party Transfer (TPT) program, said the chanting protesters at Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.

“We want the courts to reverse their decisions and give these people their deeds back, because it’s very unfair,” James Caldwell, president of the 77th Precinct Community Council, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

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Numerous residents have lost their fully paid-off homes over technicalities as small as late water bill payments, he said.

“The judges here at the Supreme Court are taking our black- and brown-skinned people’s property through the mayor’s TPT program,” he said. In one case, “for $3,700 [the city] transferred their property to a nonprofit, giving all the equity and everything away. We think that’s just wrong. This is America!”

Caldwell said that Mayor Bill de Blasio may talk about affordable housing, “but he’s taking property from people that give affordable housing in our community. They’ve owned their houses for years, and all of a sudden, with nobody reaching out to them, they’re just taking their property.”

TPT designates sponsors to purchase and rehabilitate vacant and occupied multi-family properties. HPD says it does this “in order to improve and preserve housing affordable to low- to moderate-income households.”

But in November, Borough President Eric Adams said his office was witnessing “serious red flags” with the program. Adams and Councilmember Robert Cornegy have called for a “full-scale forensic audit and investigation” on the federal, state and city levels.

“When Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights, Brownsville and East New York were not attractive places to live, these families were there. And now that they’ve become gentrified, there’s an onslaught on black and brown home owners,” Adams said at that time.

Connie Lesold, a Park Slope resident who lived in Crown Heights for 50 years, told the Eagle that she joined Wednesday’s protest “because the issue affects everybody.”

“To lose your house because you’re a little bit late on a water bill or a tax bill — no, there’s no justice in that,” she said.

Lesold said some of the entities ending up with the properties “are not true nonprofits; they’re developers who are building something that they’re calling affordable — but it ends up being a lot more expensive than most people can afford.”

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