VIDEOS: June 2 Protest Against NYCB

Wondering what it looks like to protest New York Community Bank? One week ago, tenants from all over New York City showed up outside of the NYCB annual shareholders meeting. They demanded that the bank practice more responsible lending. One tenant who was in attendance lives with her husband and two daughters in a NYCB building that was recently destroyed by an electrical fire. NYCB is demanding $1.1M for the incredibly distressed property.  “I’m here because this is our life,” she said.

While we took this video and chanted with tenants outside, our allies at Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition and National People’s Action brought tenants inside the shareholder’s meeting to directly appeal to the NYCB executives and shareholders. They were denied the opportunity to speak at the meeting. Thanks to Amanda, we have a video of what happened inside.

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Tenants Speak Out at the NYCB Shareholder Meeting!

By 10 AM this morning, at least 80 tenants and advocates from distressed buildings all over New York were already blue in the face, protesting New York Community Bank’s irresponsible lending practices at their annual shareholder meeting in Queens.

We asked shareholders to intervene, and tell NYCB to stop selling loans to irresponsible landlords, adhere to sound underwriting standards, and sell loans to responsible landlords who promise to maintain buildings in safe and decent condition.

Shareholder’s got this flyer:

Despite the fact that the police were out in full force, and the hotel tried to create a wall of vehicles between the tenants and the shareholders, the tenants prevailed. Not only did a group of us interrupt the shareholder’s meeting to discuss the issue and say a prayer (before we were escorted outside), but we chanted outside the hotel  for almost two hours – causing a very peaceful raucous. This is what it looked like:

Let’s hope that as the weekend approaches, NYCB reconsiders its lending practices and decides to proceed in a responsible way. If not, I guess we’ll be back soon.

Many thanks to all of the wonderful tenants and activists who came out today. Big ups to all the folks at: ANHD, Tenants and Neighbors, Pratt Area Community Council, North West Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, and Community Action for Safe Apartments!

“Bronx debt sale triggers storm of protest”: Crain’s New York Business

Van Cortlandt Village

In the latest in a series of note sales on distressed properties by New York Community Bank, it has unloaded the mortgage on three foreclosed Bronx buildings riddled with code violations, and once again drawn the ire of city officials, politicians and housing advocates.

Read more at Crain’s New York Business

“Group asks FDIC to help 34 Bronx buildings”: Crain’s New York Business

As published in Crain’s New York Business by Daniel Massey

Housing advocates, tenants and some of New York’s most powerful elected officials Thursday called on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to force New York Community Bank to evaluate the finances and living conditions at 34 rundown Bronx buildings in foreclosure, and then disclose information on building repairs that are needed.

The move to pressure the FDIC to get involved is the latest salvo in a three-year campaign by officials and advocates to hold banks responsible for loans they made on multi-family properties that ended up falling into a state of disrepair. An amendment inserted into last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by two New York politicians, Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, gives the FDIC the power to intervene.

“We’re asking the FDIC to investigate the practices and actions of NYCB and force NYCB to make documents public so we can actually see whether there is enough money at the table to make these buildings livable,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “There are 800 units and 800 families at risk.”

An FDIC spokesman did not immediately have a response to the statement from the officials and advocates, made at a press conference Thursday at a Bronx building that was recently sold. Tenants in the Bryant Avenue building, where the morning event was held, are contending with dangerous conditions, officials said. Problems include a broken elevator, toxic mold and a carbon monoxide leak from the boiler.

New York Community Bank officials did not respond to a call seeking comment.

The bank last month sold the debt on eight dilapidated Bronx buildings to Bronx 8 LLC, a joint venture led by Townhouse Management Co., at what is believed to be a small discount on the mortgage’s $16 million face value. The city had backed a nonprofit developer, the Mutual Housing Association, and had been working on putting a financing package together for the group, which had offered $8 million.

Townhouse President Mitchel Maidman said the receiver on the buildings has been working diligently to make repairs and remove violations. “I don’t get this question of whether we paid the right price or the wrong price,” he said, declining to provide the specific figure, but saying it was less than a rumored $14 million. “We paid a fair price and if we get title, we will preserve the assets and make them very nice housing and an asset to the community.”

NYCB has a large portfolio of distressed multi-family loans. Those include mortgages on 328 buildings—housing more than 6,000 families—with more than three outstanding code violations per unit that pose serious health and safety risks. Of those buildings, 34 are in foreclosure, with a total of 800 apartments. Advocates worry they will be sold to the highest bidder without vetting the buyers’ ability or willingness to rehabilitate the deteriorating properties.

“NYCB’s irresponsible lending practices helped to create one of the most distressed housing portfolios in New York City,” said Dina Levy, organizing and policy director for the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. “Their response has been to dump troubled loans for maximum profit, leaving tenants living in squalor and taxpayers to clean up their mess.”

Mr. Schumer, Ms. Quinn, Rep. Jose Serrano and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. were among the officials who called on the FDIC to compel New York Community Bank to examine the conditions at the 34 buildings.

In addition, a half-dozen housing groups have written to the FDIC asking the agency to consider the physical distress of the housing that is in the bank’s portfolio, as well as the bank’s practices related to disposition of troubled loans as part of its ongoing Community Reinvestment Act evaluation.

By pressuring the bank to disclose financial and living conditions, officials and advocates hope to create a level of transparency so potential buyers will understand the true value of the buildings and the amount of money needed to make repairs.

“New York Community Bank is currently the most active provider of multi-family loans in New York City, and this makes their actions important to the health of our city’s housing stock,” said Benjamin Dulchin, executive director at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Tackling New York Community Bank

This story is getting old: irresponsible loans given to irresponsible landlords. Our heads are still spinning from the last round of predatory equity, yet here we are, witnessing the continued repetition of worst practices in housing.  We yelled about it then, and now, with voices hoarse but persistent, we keep yelling in hopes that our pleas might penetrate the iron walls of the bank.

In the last few weeks, tenants who live in the eight buildings owned by New York Affordable Housing Associates (NYAHA), and in the midst of the foreclosure process with New York Community Bank (NYCB), have risen up to demand an end to the bad conditions that characterize the tacitly accepted lower standard of living in the Bronx. These buildings went into foreclosure in November 2009 when NYAHA, a conglomeration of some of New York’s most infamous landlords, defaulted on two mortgages with an outstanding debt of $15,918,254. Riddled with 1,610 code violations across the eight buildings, two of the buildings have racked up so many violations that they’ve been placed in the Alternative Enforcement Program, an HPD initiative to more closely monitor and enforce urgent repair work in the 200 worst buildings in the city.

Some tenants in the buildings have lived there for much of their adult lives and many others are new residents ushered in by various Department of Homeless Services (DHS) programs. Long term tenants have watched their homes deteriorate from beneath their feet, quite literally, as floors droop inward due to excessive mold and water damage. Tenants who came from the shelters wonder if perhaps things were better where they came from.

Following the rejection of the bid made by tenant-endorsed prospective buyer Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), tenants stepped up their campaign against NYCB. With the help of UHAB, MHANY, Bronx Legal Services, and the Urban Justice Center, tenants filed the landmark “Milbank lawsuit” which effectively sues the bank in order to get more money allocated to the receiver for building repairs. They also presented the court papers to a local NYCB branch manager while wielding picket signs and marching outside the bank, garnering support for their call to “Write Down Loans, Save Our Homes!”

Unfortunately, despite the pending lawsuit and the tenants’ visible rage,  NYCB went ahead and sold the mortgage notes to an unnamed speculator, carrying the still lingering load of unsupportable debt in tow.

Although it seems that the battle to preserve these 8 buildings has now been lost,  tenants and organizers are currently brewing up new strategies to challenge NYCB’s systematically damaging lending practices. Here at UHAB we are busy compiling research about other NYCB foreclosures with high code violations and what we are discovering does not bode well for NYCB’s image…

Stay tuned for more information about upcoming actions to expose and tackle this  terrible threat to affordable housing in NYC.

“Bank Sells Bronx Mortgage”: Wall Street Journal

As published in the Wall Street Journal, by Joseph de Avila


New York Community Bank has sold the mortgage on eight dilapidated buildings in the Bronx, bank officials said Thursday, disposing of its interests in properties that have attracted tenant protests.

The purchaser bought the mortgage, which had a $16 million balance, at a discount. The bank declined to identify the buyer or to say how much the buyer paid.

“We received several offers on the note,” said Ilene Angarola, a spokeswoman with New York Community Bancorp, the bank holding company. “We feel that this party has the experience and capacity to properly care for and manage the properties.”

Also on Thursday, tenants in the buildings filed a motion in foreclosure proceedings for the properties seeking to hold New York Community Bank responsible for repairs. The tenants said they were requesting funds to fix leaky roofs, remove mold and update electrical equipment in the buildings.

Graphic courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Jonathan Levy, an attorney with Legal Services NYC-Bronx, which is representing the tenants, said he was “stunned” by the news of the sale.

“We’ll see who they are, what they are about and whether we can work with them,” Mr. Levy said. “We hope that it actually is someone that is responsible and the price is sustainable. If not, we will pursue other remedies.”

From 2004 to 2008, New York Community Bank loaned $19 million on the eight distressed properties to New York Affordable Housing Associates, a local housing company. But the rents at the apartments couldn’t support the loans, and the mortgage went into default.

Officials with New York Affordable Housing Associates didn’t return calls seeking comment.

“No one can really be surprised about what happened,” Mr. Levy said.

It’s a problem that has played out throughout the city. About 100,000 rent-stabilized apartments are in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure because they have too much debt, he said.

Ulisa Rios, a tenant in one of the buildings, said the ceiling of her bathroom collapsed due to an unrepaired leak. Now one of her floors is beginning to sink in.

“God forbid the floor caves in. Anybody can get hurt,” said Ms. Rios, 24 years old, who lives in the apartment with her son, who is 7.

It will cost about $23 million to repair all eight buildings, at about $75,000 per unit, according to Ismene Speliotis, executive director of Mutual Housing Association of New York Management Inc., a nonprofit housing organization.

MHANY Management made a bid in December to buy the eight Bronx properties for about $8 million, but was rejected by New York Community Bank.

New York Community Bank officials declined to comment on the motion filed on Thursday by the building residents.

March 11, 2011