New York Post Sunday Business Section, Real Estate Exclusive - December 16, 2017
THOUSANDS OF NEW YORK HOMES HURT BY 'NIGHTMARE NEIGHBORS'
More than 100 bank-owned homes are nightmare neighbors for fellow New Yorkers.
Ten years after the foreclosure crisis began, the pain grinds on locally in low-income areas and communities of color, while big financial institutions are riding high with billions of dollars in profits amid record stock-market peaks.
So why are banks letting local homes they foreclosed on and now own rack up hundreds of city violations and fall into disrepair? Since even a few dozen neglected bank-owned homes have an outsize negative impact on surrounding residences, a group of local politicians has branded these properties “nightmare neighbors” in a new investigative report released exclusively to The Post.
BANK OF AMERICA LET HOUSE BECOME EYESORE IN CROWN HEIGHTS
New York Post Sunday Business Section - December 16, 2017
In Crown Heights, a two-family house owned by Bank of America was the only eyesore on an otherwise well-kept block.
Bank of America’s home had weeds growing several feet high in the front yard, while a thick carpet of trash, dead leaves and weeds bordered the fence in front. The IDC’s investigation uncovered multiple complaints and open violations on the property from municipal agencies.
NYC IS SHORT ON BOOKSTORES - BUT INDEPENDENT OWNERS ARE CHANGING THAT
New York Post Sunday Business Section - April 2, 2017
New Yorkers like to think we have it all: the most Michelin-starred restaurants, the tallest building in the country and more theaters than any other city in the world.
But we’re woefully short of bookstores. The closure of four Barnes & Noble stores starting in 2014 has left Queens’ 2.3 million residents with only one general-interest bookstore, and The Bronx’s 1.4 million denizens with none.
New York City’s 8.5 million residents now have eight Barnes & Nobles and fewer than 100 independent bookstores. France, by contrast, has eight times NYC’s population, but 2,500 bookstores.
And yet, a new group of bibliophiles-turned-business-owners is bringing more bookstores to NYC. The Lit. Bar in the South Bronx, Books Are Magic in Brooklyn and the tentatively titled Forest Bookshop in Queens are set to open by year-end, each in direct response to the loss of a local bookstore.
“We live in the neighborhood, and couldn’t bear the idea of not having a bookstore,” said novelist Emma Straub, whose 1,800-square-foot store debuts on May 1 at 225 Smith St., six blocks from the site of iconic indie BookCourt, which closed last year.
TAKING OUT A REVERSE MORTGAGE RUINED MY LIFE
New York Post Sunday Business Section - July 23, 2016
When Frederick Feil took out a reverse mortgage on his Howard Beach home, he thought he was ensuring a comfortable future — not putting himself at risk of becoming homeless.
Feil, 67, who has a heart stent and undergoes dialysis treatments, is desperately fighting to prevent Finance of America Reverse from tossing him out of his home.
Feil took out a $353,000 reverse mortgage in December 2011, using all but a few thousand dollars to repay an earlier mortgage and cover hefty origination fees. Feil told The Post he fell behind on property taxes while in the hospital last year — and unexpectedly found himself in foreclosure last March when Finance of America Reverse called the entire balance, which has ballooned to $449,583.85 from interest and other charges, due.
Feil claims Finance of America’s servicer, Reverse Mortgage Solutions, gave him the runaround when he called about the default. The amount is not listed in the foreclosure complaint, which made it tough for him to catch up. Feil turned to lawyer Jennifer Levy of JASA Queens, which provides assistance for the elderly including legal services, she claims the case is riddled with errors.
Levy says Finance of America’s lawyer finally disclosed in May that the arrears totaled $15,375.
“A reverse mortgage is more trouble than help,” said Feil. “If I had known it would be this bad, I would have sold my house.”
HOUSE OF CARDS
New York Post Sunday Business Section - August 14, 2011
The banks still just don’t get it.
In a staggering 92 percent of the claims brought by creditors asserting the right to foreclose against bankrupt families in New York City and the close-in suburbs, banks and mortgage servicers couldn’t prove they had the right to kick the families out on the street, a three-month probe by The Post has shown.
But that didn’t stop the banks from trying.
By robosigning documents and pressing foreclosures without the proper paperwork, banks have attempted to steamroll their way over sometimes-outgunned homeowners, The Post has uncovered.
But homeowners and the courts are starting to fight back.
Forced to finally face the mess, banks find themselves driven to the bargaining table, where they now hope to win a global settlement with all 50 states and the federal government. The tangled, complex mess in New York shows how tough — and expensive — such a settlement could be for the banks.
The Post dug through more than 150 Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings from June 2010 in New York’s Eastern and Southern federal court districts — covering the five boroughs, Long Island and nearby northern counties including Westchester–in search of local foreclosure or pre-foreclosure cases. We then put together a random sample of 40 cases where creditors such as banks — but more often loan servicers — filed proofs of claim for first mortgage debt.
The research unearthed claims riddled with robosigners, suspiciousdocuments and outrageous fees. And in a stunning 37 out of 40 cases, The Post discovered a broken chain of title from the original lender to the company now making claim against a local family for its home and thousands of dollars in questionable fees.
In other words, the bank or mortgage servicer filing the claim failed to prove it has any right at all to make a claim it was owed the debt or that it could seize the home in question.
The Post looked at Chapter 13 filings because the banks or mortgage servicers file proofs of claim for the debt and must, under penalty of perjury, include accurate information about the mortgage, note and fees. In New York, filing public records with “intent to deceive” is a felony.
New York Post - June 9, 2008
IT’S 9 a.m. in the lobby of a Midtown office building, and Marge Keller steps onto the elevator to start her workday.
That’s right, onto the elevator – not into it.
Clad in work boots, black jeans and a black Dickies work shirt, a slender gold hoop glinting in one ear, Keller moves carefully. Nimble footwork is needed to navigate the mass of gears, controls and cables atop the elevator car. Slipping or stumbling while a second elevator operates just a few feet away in the same shaft could prove fatal.
Keller and her partner will spend the next several hours cleaning the elevator shaft by hand, removing grime that could pose a fire hazard. Some days she finishes blackened with muck.
Yet Keller loves working in a traditionally male-dominated trade. In this arena, a woman without a college degree can forge a challenging, high-paying career path, complete with union benefits and free of desk-jockey drudgery. Since Keller swapped $7-an-hour toil in a Rochester restaurant to train at the local nonprofit Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), she’s developed in-demand expertise that’s earned her $30-an-hour pay and a route of her own with 80 elevator cars.
“I’d never really worked with tools besides kitchen utensils,” says Keller, 46. “It’s a fusion of mechanical and electrical skills – and you can make good money.”
Keller is part of a growing number of New York women who are lacing up their work boots and donning the hard hats of male-dominated trades, in the wake of a push by Mayor Bloomberg to expand women’s anemic share of the city’s $26 billion-a-year construction industry.
Working with union officials, developers and NEW, Bloomberg founded a Commission on Construction Opportunity and crafted a plan to dedicate 10 percent of apprentice slots to women. The city ran ads for NEW to boost recruiting and the Department of Labor pitched in by granting its grads fast-track entry into union apprenticeships, while developers and institutions committed to a long-term goal of 15 percent journeywomen and female apprentices.