“Cancel Tax Lien Sale,” Brooklyn Community Groups Tell City

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Brooklyn community groups have called on the city to cancel the controversial sale of tax liens slated for December, saying in a public meeting on October 1 that the sale widens the racial wealth gap.

Representatives from Habitat for Humanity, New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, Legal Services NYC, Bridge Street Development Corporation, Housing Organizers for People Empowerment, Small Property Owners of New York, New York City Artists Coalition, CUNY’s Hunter School of Urban Policy and Planning, the Abolish the Tax Lien Sale Coalition, and more all spoke at the hearing, urging the city to rethink its lien selling practices.

Bridge Street Development Corporation President and CEO Gregory Anderson told those in attendance that the group strongly believes and strongly recommends that the sale of the lien scheduled for December be canceled.

“Given the historic and potentially negative impact of the sale of privileges on the growing racial wealth gap within our community, we believe that until there is consensus, there is no should not be a sale, ”he told those in attendance.

The lien sale is held annually by the New York City departments of finance and environmental protection, where tax liens on properties with unpaid property taxes and water bills are sold when ‘an auction.

The City sells the liens to a single authorized buyer, who does not take title to the property, but buys the right to collect the money owed plus interest and fees, ultimately multiplying the debt.

If the owner does not pay, the lien holder can seize the property and the building will be auctioned.

This year, the Department of Environmental Protection pulled out of the sale, which will only include land tax liens held by the Department of Finance, and not water and sewage liens.

However, the reduced sale still includes 11,194 properties that have outstanding property tax and emergency repair payments to the City. There are 3,657 single-family homes, 3,295 apartment buildings and 4,242 other properties on the list.

Anderson said his organization has worked closely with the Department of Finance, HPD, Community Council 3, our locally elected officials and community partners for many years to educate landowners about the privilege sale list, and had provided assistance in accessing Eligible Exemptions and DOF Payment Plans.

Last summer, he said, the group carried out outreach activities using the canceled 2020 lien sale list and partnered with the Bed-Stuy Brownstoners, who carried out the porterage. door-to-door to let homeowners know their property is in danger.

When the 2021 sale was announced last month, he said the group was “appalled” to see the number of Brooklyn addresses on the list drop from 1,151 on the 2020 list to 4,519.

“Of great concern is that of the 4,519 Brooklyn properties on the privilege sale list, 484, or 11%, are in Community Board 3 and 422, or 9% in Council District 36. To account for the overlap, 866 addresses or 19% are in Districts 36 and 41, ”he said.

“These numbers are a testament to the disproportionately negative impact that the sale of tax lien has had on black and brown communities.”

He said the number of properties being sold “clearly illustrates” that owners and landlords face deficits and financial challenges, made worse by the pandemic. The sale, he added, served as both a motivation and an incentive for the act theft and the crooks who preyed on members of the community, and that’s because the crooks are focusing on the size of the lien compared to the value of the property.

“At a time when the administration and council have implemented several programs and actions to close the racial gap in income and wealth, the city should not pursue a fiscal and financial practice that only intensifies the wealth gap. ”

Joan Erskine, of Brooklyn Level Up, said at the hearing: “The tax lien sale takes over the financial problems of struggling homeowners who live in the city, are part of the city, to whom the city has a duty to. representation and makes these problems a generator of profit for institutional investors who owe nothing to the City and to whom the City owes nothing.

Community groups such as East New York Community Land Trust (ENYCLT) have advocated for reform, arguing that the sale pushes long-time tenants out of their homes. Albert Scott Jr., chairman of the Trust and longtime resident of eastern New York City, previously told BK Reader that the group was “extremely disturbed” that Mayor Bill de Blasio had decided to continue selling the lien this year. year as people continued to fight the effects of the pandemic.

“When people are already behind on their bills, the fees and interest that the private tax lien trust charges can easily put them on the brink,” he said.

“The racialized impact of the tax lien sale is blatantly clear – communities like East New York are hit hardest due to a long list of exclusionary policies, including unfair lending practices, and the sale tax lien turns it into a weapon. “

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