Advocates Call for Fines Against Banks & Eminent Domain to Address Consequences of Foreclosures
Newark, NJ – Compelled by the experience of Newark grandmother Grace Alexander, leaders on the Newark City Council have scheduled a public hearing to consider out-of-the-box ideas to save families from foreclosure and address the public cost.
What: Newark Municipal Council Public/Private Housing Committee
When: April 18th, 11:00 AM
Where: Newark City Hall, 920 Broad Street, Room 304
New Jersey is faced with the second highest rate of foreclosure in the entire country and is moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the country when it comes to foreclosures, according to RealtyTrac. In just the first month of 2013 nearly 3,500 New Jersey homeowners were subjected to foreclosure filings by the same Wall Street banks that created the housing bubble - a 148% increase from the month prior.
“Foreclosures hurt homeowners and their families, decrease the value of neighboring properties and ultimately drain the revenue streams cities and counties need to pay for infrastructure, education and first responders among many other critical public services,” said Newark City Councilman Darrin Sharif. “This is the most important issue facing our city today and I’m anxious to review the research and consider our options at the local level to tackle what Governor Christie has put on the back burner.”
“For years, Governor Christie failed to release more than $300 million dollars in Hardest Hit funds that could save families from the streets,” said Trina Scordo, executive director of New Jersey Communities United. “His administration started releasing some of those funds only after public scrutiny – and even now the distribution of that money is a trickle compared to the flood of foreclosures in the pipeline for 2013.”
Advocates also claim that Gov. Christie has taken $75 million from the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement to plug budget holes, money that should have gone to fund Legal Services and housing counselors which provide essential expertise to struggling homeowners navigating through the complex foreclosure process. “We want that money back,” said Scordo. “Gov. Christie also has a responsibility to ensure that the more than $725 million from the settlement is being properly distributed – but he has failed to take an active role in holding the worst actors on Wall Street accountable for fixing the destruction they have brought to New Jersey communities.”
“My Ward has the highest amount of foreclosed housing in Newark, which is why I helped launch the Newark Essex County Foreclosure Task Force in 2007 to combat this crisis,” said Newark West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice. “But banks have to be willing to be part of the solution, work with residents and adhere to federal mandates in the spirit of humanity.”
"At a time when the stock market is reaching all-time highs and the banks are now bigger than ever, it is shameful that thousands of working families across New Jersey continue to be pushed out of their homes," said Milly Silva, an Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. "We are so proud of the courage our union sister Grace Alexander showed as she stood up against Bank of America and demanded that the corrupt practices of Wall Street banks be exposed. Public hearings like this one are vital to uncovering the true extent of the damage that predatory banks have caused to New Jersey communities."
Other cities around the country – including Chicago, Berkeley, and New York's Suffolk County - are exploring policies that include the use of eminent domain and enforcing vacant property fines against the Wall Street banks that have pushed families out of their homes and assumed ownership. The hearing in April will detail the estimated cost of the foreclosure crisis on Newark as well as the potential for revenue generation that could come as the result of enforcing local abandon property ordinances.
Anti-foreclosure activists anticipate a large turn-out at the April hearing which will include testimony from experts, advocates and Newark residents who have lost their homes to foreclosure or are currently in the process.
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DELEGATION TO DEMAND PRINCIPAL WRITE-DOWNS TO SAVE FAMILIES FROM FORECLOSURE & ANNOUNCE OFFICIAL HEARINGS ON FORECLOSURE PRACTICES
Jersey City, NJ – Grace Alexander, a 57-year-old New Jersey grandmother and member of 1199 SEIU, has enlisted the support of influential elected leaders and community advocates in her fight to save her home from foreclosure. Newark Councilman Ron Rice, who represents Newark’s West Ward residents like Grace will be joined by Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Jersey City Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop and District 33 Assemblyman Sean Connors. Also joining the delegation are Grace’s neighbors, co-workers, fellow union members from 1199 SEIU and anti-foreclosure activists from New Jersey Communities United (NJCU).
WHAT: PICKET & DELEGATION AT BANK OF AMERICA
WHERE: BANK OF AMERICA, Harborside Financial Center HBLR Platform, Jersey City, NJ 07305
WHEN: JANUARY 24TH, 2013, 11AM
“I am joining Grace to let Bank of America know that I am calling for hearings at the Newark City Council to investigate the impact of bank foreclosures on the city of Newark. Financial institutions, like Bank of America need to resolve Grace’s case and thousands of homeowners like her by instituting principle write downs,” said Councilman Rice. “The federal government has helped banks clear their books, but they haven’t done anything to keep families in their homes. Governor Christie has sat on a pile of money meant to help homeowners like Grace, and he has used part of that money to offset tax breaks for New Jersey’s wealthiest residents. It’s time for local governments across New Jersey to do what’s right for our constituents and demand accountability from banks and our Governor.”
Supporters will hold an informational picket at Bank of America in Jersey City to draw attention to Grace’s story and the 100,000 other New Jersey families currently in the foreclosure pipeline. A delegation of leaders will march into Bank of America to demand a principal write-down on her mortgage in an effort to keep the nursing assistant in the house she’s called home for more than 12 years.
“They’ve been giving me the run around for two years now,” said Grace, a Newark resident. “I have a job. I can pay a mortgage. But they don’t want my money, they want my house. I’ve tried every which way to save my home, but Bank of America would rather kick me onto the streets than to work with me.”
“The banks are incentivized to foreclose on homes, “said Trina Scordo, executive director of New Jersey Communities United, an affiliate of the Home Defenders League, a national network of activists fighting against foreclosures and for a just resolution to the mortgage crisis. “Taxpayer money is being used to take homes away from families and not for principal write-downs which would keep families in their homes. We have the second highest rate of foreclosure in the country and more than 100,000 families who share Grace’s experience. It’s time for the banks to be held accountable.”
"1199 stands strong with Grace Alexander as she fights to stay in her home and continue to be a vital member of the Newark community," said Milly Silva, 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President. "Unfortunately, Grace is a prime example of the people forgotten in Chris Christie's New Jersey. We will continue to fight to ensure Grace and the thousands like her have their voices heard."
Visuals: Dozens of community supporters leafleting busy Jersey City plaza, smaller delegation of elected leaders marching into Bank of America alongside Grace to demand a principal write down on her mortgage and announce Newark City Council hearings on the matter.
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WORKERS AT LA CASA NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
For 45 years, the workers at La Casa have been an invaluable resource for the Newark community. Ultimately, the working conditions of child care workers and early educators are also the learning conditions for the children. That is why NJCU is fighting to raise standards across the board: to advocate for our communities and to ensure that our students receive the quality of education and care that they deserve - and why we support the workers at La Casa negotiating their first union contract.
While much progress has been made by child care workers at the negotiation table, La Casa is now refusing to consider wage increases that recognize the value, hard work and dedication of the workers who serve our communities and care for our children. This has essentially brought contract negotiations to a standstill - along with the implementation of proposals that will benefit the children in La Casa's classrooms.
Newark Students Disrupt School Board Candidates Debate Hosted by Charter School Industry
Long-simmering tensions over the rapid expansion of charter schools in the City of Newark took a militant turn at a school board candidate forum hosted by the Newark Trust for Education on April 5th. The student members of NJ Communities United disrupted the forum to demand that candidates running for the Newark Public Schools Board of Education support two student demands: to enact a moratorium on charter school expansion in the city and to end the controversial One Newark Universal Enrollment program which prioritizes charter school assignments over public school assignments.
Seven of the candidates running for seats on the school board immediately signed their names onto the student demands, including Patricia Bradford, Denise Cole, Josephine Garcia, Jameel Ibrahim, Sheila Montegue, Philip Seelinger, and Charles Love.
“The difference between public schools and charter schools is not that charter schools choose who they let in, they choose who they kick out, so charter schools claim to have a higher percentage of students who perform well,” Bradley, also a student at Science Park High School. “The charter schools kick out kids whose problems are too big. We should not be diverting our money to them, we should be putting that money into actually helping students who want and need a good education.”
Read the full press release from NJ Communities United here.