Calls for audit on home foreclosures in Brooklyn

New York City Councilman Robert Cornegy.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., the chair of the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings, have called for a full-scale forensic audit and investigation on the federal, state and city levels into the issue of deed fraud Brooklyn.

Adams and Cornegy said on Monday that the probe should include the role that the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)’s Third Party Transfer (TPT) program, claiming that it may be “unintentionally defrauding homeowners of their property.”

In letters sent last week to United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman, New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Public Advocate Letitia James, Adams and Cornegy additionally asked for their partnership with the City Council to enact a temporary moratorium on TPT seizures and other foreclosures in Brooklyn, “so as to ensure that no illegal activity is occurring.”

“Deed fraud and mortgage foreclosures have reached a crisis moment in Brooklyn,” they wrote. “In previous years, our offices worked together to host forums to highlight available resources to curtail deed fraud and prevent foreclosures on homes that may be at risk.

“However, through extensive discussions with community stakeholders, we have become aware that there appears to be deeper, and possibly illegal, actions being undertaken to defraud homeowners of their property,” Adams and Cornegy added.

“When a person’s home is endangered or seized, especially when it is being done by or through the participation of a government agency, we must ensure any action taken against them occurred completely within the bounds of the law,” they continued.

“We must do more to ensure that bad actors and government programs are not forcing seniors and low-income residents out of their homes in the face of a changing borough, especially since it was these same families who made Brooklyn such an attractive place to raise healthy children and families,” Adams and Cornegy said. “We must do what we can to ensure they reap the benefits of their investment in communities that were historically ignored.”

In a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall in announcing this call for action, Adams and Cornegy were joined by several impacted homeowners, who have reached out to their offices in recent months, as well as an attorney who works regularly with foreclosure defendants.

Homeowner McConnell Dorcy said that when he went to go pay his tax bill, “they said I needed a letter from HPD.

“But, when I went to HPD to pay the bill, I was told I needed to come back with copies of the deed, license, and bank statement,” he said. “They said to come back over and over again, while indicating I had no violations.”

After waiting for three months over the summer, Dorcy said he was shocked to learn that he was “foreclosed due to violations that I was not even made aware of.

“It was not clear what I violated to designate my property as distressed,” he said.

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