Adams demands oversight, reforms for contentious housing program
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called for the city to return seized small properties to their original owners after they were foreclosed upon through a program of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development that a judge called “overly broad and improper.”
The program — called Third Party Transfer — allows the city to foreclose on “distressed … multi-family properties to improve and preserve housing affordable to low- to moderate-income households.”
The actual impact has been far more sinister, the borough president and community advocates said Sunday. The city is foreclosing on homes that don’t meet the standard of “distressed,” largely in black and brown communities, according to Adams.
On the steps of Brooklyn Supreme Court, Adams argued that TPT is directly linked to issues of gentrification.
“If they didn’t have a problem for 30 years with holding on to their properties when their properties were not attractive to investors and gentrification, why all of a sudden are homeowners in these same communities that have become extremely attractive unable to hold onto their properties?” he asked.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Mark Partnow vacated HPD’s foreclosures on six affected properties Thursday, and in a scathing 69-page ruling called the city’s program “overly broad and improper,” causing a “grave injustice.”
In light of the ruling, the borough president reiterated his call for a temporary moratorium on the TPT program and demanded that the city return to their original owners all four-family homes and smaller that have been taken by the city through the program. He also called for hearings at the federal, state and city level to look into the wider issue of deed fraud.
“Homeownership is the cornerstone of black wealth — not only in New York City but across America — and there has been a long history of attempting to take property from communities of color,” said Adams.
Going forward, Adams wants those who lose their homes to through the TPT program to be reimbursed with equity.
The city, however, disputes the judge’s ruling.
“The city’s TPT Program helps protect tenants and the affordability of their homes. Owners of properties in arrears are treated fairly and afforded due process before the city takes action,” Nick Paolucci, spokesperson for the New York City Law Department, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday.
He added, “We disagree with this ruling and are considering our legal options.”
Attorney Yolande Nicholson is bringing a class action lawsuit against the city representing other homeowners who claim unjust foreclosure on their own properties.
The city “continues to barrel through people’s lives and homes with impunity,” Nicholson said Sunday.
One of the homeowners participating in the lawsuit, McConnell Dorse, said he was trying to pay property taxes on his Brooklyn property when HPD asked for his deed.
Dorse, who owned his property since 1977, had “incurred water and sewage charges,” according to the lawsuit. Despite paying the charges in a timely manner, he received a letter that showed TPT on the deed as the owner, not him.
Dorse said his four-family Brownsville home was worth $1.5 million.
“We’re still waiting to get it back,” he said.
Story updated at 1:30 p.m. with a statement from the New York City Law Department.
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