Foreclosures Plague Families, Neighbors in Southeast Queens
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Oct 30, 2008 | 1224 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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A boarded-up, bank-owned house on 106th Street is poorly maintained and has become an eyesore that drives nearby property values down.
This Halloween, there’s nothing scarier than an abandoned house, and it’s not because there might be ghosts haunting it.

The increased number of boarded-up homes in Queens is the result of mortgage foreclosures, and it’s happening in this borough more than anywhere else in New York City. And nowhere in the borough has been hit harder by the mortgage crunch than Southeastern Queens, and it has left a swath of ill-maintained houses.

According to a report released by Councilman Joseph Addabbo, 14 percent of the borough’s bank-owned homes can be found in the 15th Senate District. Addabbo, who is a candidate for the 15th Senate seat, said that “As the foreclosure crisis spreads, we’re seeing a ripple effect as property values plummet and surrounding neighborhoods experience an increase in quality of life issues like graffiti and crime.

“Thirty-four percent of this city’s foreclosure filings are in Queens, and this district has 14 percent of the borough’s total.”

The councilman blamed the problem on the State Senate, saying that they failed to pass a bill that would create a moratorium on foreclosures. The bill, which was introduced into the state legislature in March, was co-sponsored by Assemblyman James Brennan and State Senator Frank Padavan. It would have created a one-year moratorium on home foreclosures, giving owners an opportunity for further negotiations with banks that provided home loans.

“The Republican State Senate prefers to stall along party lines rather than pass comprehensive legislation, which would allow the city to clean up blighted properties and bill the bank,” the councilman said. “It’s wrong that our communities should suffer because of the Senate Republican’s dysfunction.”

If Addabbo is voted into the State Senate, his presence is likely to flip the Republican majority into a Democratic one, and he indicated that if that happens, the moratorium legislation would likely be passed.

Regardless of the politics behind the foreclosures, the appearance of foreclosed homes has become something of a nuisance for homeowners. The boarded-up, vacant properties that are dotting quiet residential neighborhoods have become havens for peeling paint, litter, and weeds.

The councilman was joined by community leaders for a press conference in front of a neglected foreclosed home on 106th Street in South Ozone Park to draw attention to the growing problem in the neighborhood. The house is litter strewn with peeling paint and a lawn full of weeds, and neighbors say it has been in this condition for years.

“These foreclosed homes have an affect on the immediate homes surrounding them as well as the community at large,” said Community Board 10 Chairman Betty Bratton. “Home values are diminished by this.”

She also said that when these homes fall into squalor and disrepair, the fact that they are owned by banks, many of which are national and non-local companies, makes it difficult to enforce maintenance.

“It can take us weeks just to find out who owns the house, and even longer to get it cleaned up,” she said.

Frank, who owns a home on 106th Street near the foreclosed house was none too happy about the state of the property on his block.

“This house looks like a piece of junk,” he said. “Whoever left it like this should clean it up. It wasn’t bad before it was boarded up. The bank has to do something.”

Though it may be band-aid on the larger wound of the housing crisis, Addabbo discussed another piece of legislation that would allow the city to clean and maintain foreclosed properties and bill banks for cleaning up their property.

Under the legislation, if a politician or city agency received a report of neglected, bank-owned property, the city could dispatch someone to clean up the property and bill the banks for its trouble.

“It can often take these banks six months or more before they come in and fix up their property, and it is usually right before they want to sell it, and that is going to hurt the community for a while,” he said. “As owners, it’s their responsibility to keep it clean. There would be no cost to the city.”

Addabbo said that this bill was also stalled in the State Senate.

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