Black Property Owners Say Abolish Third Party Transfer Program

Because the de Blasio administration winds down, the town council is making an attempt to reform the Third Party Transfer program (TPT) – which the administration utilized beneath the guise of turning round “distressed” properties and creating extra inexpensive housing, however resulted in makes an attempt to take thousands and thousands of {dollars} in Black and Hispanic generational wealth out of traditionally black however quickly gentrifying neighborhoods.

Nonetheless, attorneys for 3 Black Central Brooklyn owners who filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit towards the Metropolis stemming from TPT say this system ought to be abolished as a result of it violates the Structure’s Fifth Modification that claims the federal government can’t take non-public property for public function with out simply compensation. 

The problem was first delivered to mild by Kings County Politics (KCP), now PoliticNY, in September 2018, when the town by means of TPT, tried to take the absolutely paid-off three-story brownstone of retired nurse, Marlene Saunders, 74, at 1217 Dean Avenue in Crown Heights for a water invoice of $3,792.20, which was really paid. The property has been appraised at over $2 million.

By an investigative sequence of over 30 tales, Kings County Politics documented greater than 60 properties taken by means of TPT by means of “in rem” foreclosures proceedings. This finally led to a Kings County Supreme Court docket ruling in March 2019 that the Metropolis violated the U. S. Structure within the seizure of six central Brooklyn properties with out simply compensation, and ordered the town to offer them again to their homeowners, restoring thousands and thousands of {dollars} of intergenerational wealth within the black and Latino group.

Beneath the TPT program, the town seizes properties they deem “distressed,” and in some instances barely behind on sewer and water taxes, and offers them to the general public/non-public non-profit Neighborhood Restore, who in flip give the property for a nominal price to a professional non-profit or for-profit developer. This system was created in 1996, when the town had numerous deserted and uncared for buildings.

Nonetheless, with gentrification, these properties, and others in the identical program, are actually value thousands and thousands of {dollars} in market worth. Nearly all of the properties highlighted within the KCP sequence had been utterly paid for with no mortgage and situated in historically black and brown neighborhoods, which have gotten more and more gentrified.

When the town takes property beneath TPT, they offer no fairness to the property homeowners, who in most of the instances paid hundreds of {dollars} in again taxes and water payments to the Division of Finance, which was by no means registered as being paid.

Metropolis Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., in whose Central Brooklyn district had a lot of TPT seizures, has been working with the town’s Division of Housing Preservation (HPD), which oversees this system, to reform it.

In a metropolis council listening to this week, Cornegy introduced a number of proposed items of laws to reform TPT together with the creation of an workplace of the house owner advocate inside HPD, revising what’s deemed a distressed property, and increasing discover necessities to property homeowners.

“The TPT Program, as designed in 1996, isn’t applicable to the NYC of today. I look forward to taking these ideas forward and ensuring we produce the fair-minded, thoughtful policy our city needs,” stated Cornegy following the listening to.

“TPT has consistently robbed African American families of their homes but protecting them is easier said than done. Today we have shown that we have public servants and community activists willing and able to fix a complex problem dating back to 1996,” he added.

However lawyer Matthew L. Berman, one of many plaintiffs’ attorneys with the regulation agency Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, who testified on the listening to, stated the TPT program is essentially flawed.

“What was interesting to me was the problems that the council is identifying are legitimate. What do you do with homeowners who are behind on their sewage bills on their water bills? What do you do when properties get run down? Some of these properties have tenants in them. You can have a landlord that’s neglecting the property. What do you do? You know, can’t we reform the TPT to take care of that? Well, no, you can’t because you have never fixed the fundamental flaw, which is that you’re not paying for what you take,” stated Berman.

Berman stated TPT can also be not obligatory as a result of the town already has different measures to gather again taxes similar to a tax lien sale, through which the town sells tax liens, however on this case as soon as a property is offered at public sale the house owner will get paid simply compensation worth of the property. Equally, when non-public property is taken beneath eminent area, property homeowners are additionally paid the worth of the property.

“HPD has now doubled down, asking the Council to pass a law that would make it close to impossible for owners to retrieve their properties from foreclosure, by tacking on repair charges, management, brokerage and other fees that are completely unrelated to any taxes owed.  The proposed changes to the TPT amount to a last-minute attempt to try to blunt the impact of the lawsuit, instead of paying these wronged homeowners the money that they are owed, which may exceed a billion dollars,” stated Berman.

Keith H. Wofford, one other lawyer representing the plaintiffs with the regulation agency White & Case LLP, and who grew to become concerned with the problem when he ran as a Republican towards Letitia James for State Lawyer Normal, stated beneath the present regulation, the Metropolis takes properties owned by Blacks and Latinos which have municipal prices of as little as $1,000 – with out paying the house owner a dime. 

“Under the proposed new law, the City would still take Blacks’ and Latinos’ properties with minimal municipal charges – again without paying a dime. Both the old law and the proposed new law violate the Constitution, and the marginal changes in the new law do not change this fundamental fact — they just change the City’s cover story,” stated Wofford.

“The ‘sunset’ provision for this law should not be in 2025, it should be now. We will continue to seek justice for the victims of this ‘program’ until the City stops violating the most basic and fundamental concepts of American law,” he added.

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