2010-01-20 / Features

Queens Foreclosures Rise, Refinancing Drops

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

“We need an emergency program with all these foreclosed homes,” said Marshall. “We need an emergency program with all these foreclosed homes,” said Marshall. Ten years after the first signs of crisis emerged, at least 1,000 properties are currently in foreclosure in Jamaica.

That is the most in the city, according to Propertyshark.com, as reported in the January 2 New York Times. In comparison, the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn was second with 100 foreclosures, and Harlem had the most in Manhattan with 36.

“What happens after foreclosure?” asked Cathy Mickens. “What happens to our community? What are we going to do with these homes? We’re going to have a community of boarded-up houses.”

“On my block alone, there are 15 houses in foreclosure,” said Mickens, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc. (NHSJ) at the January meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet. “It’s a gigantic problem in Southeast Queens,” said Borough President Helen Marshall.

Within Queens Community Boards 12 (Jamaica/Hollis) and 13 (Queens Village), NHSJ quotes notices of foreclosure issued on 52 percent of properties in CB 12 and 28 percent in Board 13, the highest foreclosure rates in New York state. Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Community Board 12, said squatters are taking up residence in abandoned foreclosed homes because they are not sealed.

“We’re trying to do a number of things to help with the foreclosures,” Mickens said. “Our numbers are increasing every day.”

NHSJ has guided 165 families through loan modifications made possible by the $75 billion program, announced by President Barack Obama last February, to help keep as many as four million people in their homes. NHSJ is helping another 686 families through the process of contacting banks and submitting the necessary paperwork.

Bridgett Bush, a NHSJ staff attorney, said loan modifications don’t happen overnight. “It could take, possibly, three months and homeowners must continue to follow up by calling the bank to find out if any additional paperwork is needed.”

The program, which asks banks to renegotiate mortgages, has accepted more than one million applications nationwide and banks have extended new terms to 759,000 homeowners on a trial threemonth basis, according to the New York Times But only 31,000 have been fully converted into permanent new mortgages.

With 20,000 homeowners faced with foreclosure in New York City in 2009, banks have offered new or trial mortgages to just 3 percent of homeowners, according to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.

Bush said, Unemployment remaining at double digit levels, is now the primary factor in the foreclosure crisis. “Banks are refusing to give forbearance if there’s no source of income,” she said.

Many homeowners in the NHSJ area ignore foreclosure notices, said Bush. “They get a summons and complaint and don’t do anything with it,” she said, advising, “Answer it, answer it, answer it!” If a summons and complaint are not answered, a default judgment will be entered against the homeowner, she said.

“We need an emergency program with all these foreclosed homes,” said Marshall. “We’re not reacting to the needs of the people.” She urged the city to seal abandoned homes and provide for additional housing services, similar to NHSJ, throughout Queens.

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