24 THE QUEENS COURIER • DECEMBER 21, 2017 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Report: Bank-owned homes dropping values in Qns.
BY ANGELA MATUA
A new report released by members of the
state Senate found that bank-owned, foreclosed
homes in Queens have caused property
values to drop $17.9 million because
fi nancial companies failed to properly
maintain the properties they acquired.
“Nightmare Neighbors: How
Badly Maintained Homes Damage
Neighborhoods” was released on Dec. 18
by the Independent Democratic Cause
(IDC), an eight-member group in the state
Senate. Th e report identifi ed hundreds
of bank-owned properties in Queens,
Brooklyn the Bronx and Staten Island to
analyze how these foreclosed homes aff ected
Aft er the housing market crash in the
mid-2000s, Queens saw an increase in
“zombie properties.” In 2009, then-Governor
David Paterson signed a law that made
fi nancial institutions responsible for maintaining
a property until it was transferred
to another owner.
According to the report, however, banks
circumvented this law by declining to
accept ownership of the properties aft er
the foreclosure process, leaving it up to
home owners to maintain them. In 2016,
the state passed a law to give municipalities
and the Department of Financial
Services (DFS) power to enforce the 2009
law and created a registry for these zombie
For this report, the IDC chose to look
at the state of bank-owned properties
that have been abandoned to analyze
the eff ects on surrounding homeowners.
Th ey dubbed these properties “nightmare
Staff members identifi ed 336 bankowned
one- to four-family homes in the
four boroughs and found that 136 had
open violations listed on the Housing
Preservation and Development (HUD)
and Department of Buildings (DOB) websites.
Th e 136 properties have 2,610 open violations
and the report
estimates that the homes
are responsible for lower
property values of homes
nearby by $53.44 million
Queens, with 155
had the largest number
of these properties
with open violations.
Th e report found that 50
of the 155 bank-owned
properties had a total of
576 open violations.
A spokesperson for
state Senator Jose Peralta
said members saw trash
piled up in backyards
and lawns, boarded up
windows, chained doors
and overgrown vegetation.
Th e analysis found that 2,864 one- to
four-family properties in the borough have
been impacted by these nightmare neighbors
and have lost about $6,263 in value. In
total, the bank-owned homes have caused
more than $17.9 million in house value
depreciation in Queens.
“Th e mortgage crisis wreaked havoc
across my district and the rest of the
state and the country, a tsunami that
left an adverse eff ect in so many of our
hard-working and immigrant communities,”
said Peralta, who represents Jackson
Heights, Coronaand East Elmhurst.
“Foreclosed homes became eyesores in
our neighborhoods when banks failed to
maintain their properties, not only aff ecting
the property values but also creating
health and public safety risks. Banks have
to be accountable, and this is why fi nancial
institutions should face stiff er penalties in
order for us to stop the despair of our communities.”
Th e fi nancial institutions with the most
open HPD and DOB open violations in
the borough were responsible for 74.8
percent of all the violations in Queens.
Th ey included Wilmington Savings Fund
Society, US Bank and Wells Fargo.
Th e 50 bank-owned properties with violations
in Queens were owned by 16 different
banks. Th e top fi nancial institutions
that owned most homes were responsible
for $11,461,765 of the total depreciation
recorded in the borough. In total, 32 of the
50 homes were owned by these banks.
Th e report also found that these nightmare
neighbors greatly impacted minority
communities and low-income communities.
Bank-owned homes in this report
were located in 76 ZIP codes citywide and
46 of the total were categorized as minority
communities while 26 were identifi ed as
In the 76 ZIP codes analyzed, 55 had
bank-owned properties with open violations.
Forty-six of the 55 ZIP codes are
considered minority communities, and 21
are low-income communities.
Th e IDC, led by state Senator Jeff Klein,
is proposing legislation to hold banks
accountable for these nightmare neighbors.
Th ey argue that the 2016 law should
apply to bank-owned properties and that
the Department of Finance registry should
include the properties in the
report and others like them.
“Thus, the DFS registry
would contain all vacant
and abandoned properties in
which the bank has the duty
to maintain, both prior to the
judgment of foreclosure and
aft er the judgement of foreclosure
before the bank sells
the property,” the report read.
Th e proposal would also
add monetary fi nes to the
2009 law. Under current law,
a municipality can fi le a lawsuit
against a bank for failure
to maintain the property.
If the municipality wins
the lawsuit, the bank would
be required to reimburse the
municipality for expenses
incurred from maintaining
Th e new bill would also allow DFS to
bring fi nes of $500 per day per violation.
Th e violations include a failure to maintain
the property post-foreclosure or failing
to report the bank-owned property to
In addition, the IDC is asking for $5 million
to allow DFS to hire code enforcement
offi cers to track and monitor vacant and
abandoned properties to monitor their
“Queens is unfortunately all too familiar
with the damage done to communities
by poorly maintained bank-owned houses,”
said state Senator Tony Avella, who
represents Flushing, Whitestone, Bayside
and College Point. “In my district alone, I
seem to be in contact with the Sanitation,
Buildings and Health departments monthly
to ask for their help cleaning up some
of these properties. Residents are growing
tired of these bank-owned properties that
lower the quality of life in our communities.
New Yorkers deserve better. Shame
on these fi nancial institutions for allowing
this to happen to our New York communities.”
Queens seniors get free transportation under new program
BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
firstname.lastname@example.org / @smont76
A northeast Queens lawmaker’s initiative
giving seniors free access to transportation
Councilman Paul Vallone and Selfh elp
Community Services announced that
their transportation program — which
was previously only off ered to seniors
in northeast Queens — will open up to
seniors across the borough. Th e program
will offi cially launch on Jan. 2.
In the new year, seniors throughout
Queens can call the Clearview Senior
Center at 718-224-7888 from 9 a.m. to
noon to schedule their rides to and from
medical appointments. Rides are limited
to two long distance or four local trips a
month per person.
Th e expansion was made possible
by a $10,000 grant awarded to Selfh elp
Community Services by the City Council’s
Queens Delegation. Th e program will
conclude at the end of the grant funding.
The transportation program first
launched in northeast Queens with a
pilot in April, followed by a full launch
in November. Funded by Vallone, it
allowed seniors living in the 19th City
Council District, which covers sections
of Flushing, Whitestone, College Point,
Douglaston and Bayside, to schedule
rides to and from medical appointments
through the Bayside Selfh elp Clearview
Queens seniors face a lack of aff ordable
and reliable transportation options, the
“When I launched this program I hoped
that it would grow and expand beyond
just northeast Queens, and now that is
starting to become a reality,” Vallone said.
“Seniors in our city, many of who live
on fi xed incomes, are already faced with
enough hardships such as rising property
taxes, costs of living and stagnant funding
for critical services. Th e last thing they
should have to worry about is how they’re
going to get to the doctor.”
Selfh elp, in partnership with Vallone,
also recently secured a $15,000 grant to
expand the Virtual Senior Center (VSC)
to the entire borough. Th e program allows
home-bound older adults to connect with
the larger community using technology.
Seniors can take interactive, real-time
classes in topics ranging from art history
to weight training. Over 40 classes
are typically off ered per week in English,
Mandarin, Korean, and Russian.
Find out if you or someone you know is
eligible for VCS by calling 718-559-4460.
“Continued support from government
is key to enabling older New Yorkers to
stay connected to the communities they
call home,” said Sandy Myers, vice president
of external relations and communications
for Selfh elp Community Services.
“Our transportation program, in partnership
with Four Two’s, will help address
one of the most signifi cant challenges
faced by older residents of Queens: the
lack of accessible and reliable transportation
in parts of our city.”
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Councilman Paul Vallone and the fi rst senior to
receive a ride under the April pilot program
Photo courtesy of Senator Jose Peralta’s offi ce
A new report found that abandoned bank-owned properties in Queens resulted in
lower property values.