2015-04-29 / Political Page

BP Katz’s Workshop Aimed At Saving 5,504 Queens Properties

By John Toscano

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has launched a last-ditch effort to save 5,504 homes in the borough whose owners owe the city back taxes and other bills and are in danger of having them sold out from under them.


Katz has set up a workshop to try to help the owners save their homes when the city holds a tax lien sale schedule for May 14. The owners are being urged to heed Katz’s warnings because debtors’ homes may be sold at the next Lien Sale to private debt collectors, which in turn can trigger foreclosure proceedings.


Katz stated, “Property owners on the 2015 Lien Sale List, however, may be able to avoid this if they act by May 14, 2015.”


“According to the 2015 30-Day Lien Sale List as of April 7, 2015, the zip codes of the top five areas in Queens with the most properties on the 2015 Lien Sale list are (in order): 11434 (South Jamaica/Springfield Gardens), 11368 (Corona), 11691 (Far Rockaway), 11433 (Jamaica) and 11413 (Laurelton).


Just last week, Borough President Katz and Mayor de Blasio’s administration unveiled the Jamaica Now Action Plan, which Katz described as “an aggressive and holistic 21-point plan underway for the revitalization and growth of Jamaica, Queens into a thriving residential and commercial neighborhood.”


Katz’ announcement continued, “Borough President Katz’s Tax Lien Assistance Workshop is consistent with the Plan, which includes ‘facilitating neighborhood stability’ by connecting homeowners and property owners to city programs.”


Returning to Katz’ workshop announcement, she stated, “The city’s Tax Lien Sale unfortunately hits homeowners and other property owners in some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods the hardest,” said Borough President Katz. “Third parties who buy these liens from the city oftentimes add substantial interest charges and fees on top of the unpaid debts and can ultimately foreclose on a property if its debt remains unpaid. I urge you to protect your home, protect your family, and protect your property. Because your stability is integral to the neighborhood’s stability and we want to help. You do have options before the city sells your lien to private debt collectors, so take this opportunity to act before the May 14 deadline.”


Katz said the city has sent several notices to the owners of 5,504 properties in Queens (19,239 citywide) informing them that their properties are on the 2015 Lien Sale list due to unpaid debts ranging from property taxes, water and sewer bills, and other property charges. Of those properties, 3,974 are mostly residential properties of up to three units; 510 are mostly residential properties of more than three units; and 1,020 are commercial and industrial properties.


Borough President Katz’ Tax Lien Assistance Workshop for Homeowners and Property Owners will be held Monday, May 4 from 4 to 8pm in Room 213 in Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.


Drop-ins are welcome and will be served on a first-come, first-serve basis. Owners should bring copies of the overdue bill(s) in question, as well as any letters received from the city regarding any overdue bills. Owners can check the status of their property at www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/taxes/property-lien-sales.page.


The May 4 workshop will offer property owners one-on-one customer service from representatives of the Department of Finance (DoF) or Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Property owners have several options that, if done before May 14, 2015, could remove them from the 2015 Lien Sale List: 1) apply for an exemption, 2) enter into an installment payment plan with the city, or 3) pay off the debts in-full.


Other workshops will be held throughout the city through May 7. Property owners unable to attend the May 4 workshop, but needing assistance can call 311, contact the appropriate city agency directly, or attend a similar workshop scheduled between now through May 7 throughout the city (see above link).


ABOUT TAX LIENS AND FORECLOSURES: The placement of a property on the Lien Sale List means the city can sell the lien placed against the property to a third party private entity if the property owner does not pay off his or her debt to the city or enter into a payment agreement with the city on or before May 14, 2015. If the lien is sold to a third party, that third party will then be authorized to collect the debt from the property owner, along with a potentially substantial amount of fees and interest penalties. If the property owner does not pay off the debt to this third party within a certain time frame, the third party can foreclose on the property. As such, the number of foreclosures tied to delinquent tax payments is rising, according to the National Consumer Law Center.


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