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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It's not too late to make a donation in support of our first annual fundraiser, the 2017 Solidarity Awards & Cocktail Party. Visit www.UnitedNJ.org/2017SolidarityDonation.
Reducing Medical Debt & the High Cost of Medical Care
Saturday, March 18th * 12:00 Noon – 1:30 PM
Neptune Township Library, 25 Neptune Blvd, Neptune, NJ
Medical debt is on the rise! Over the years, our health care system has begun prioritizing debt collections as much as the health of patients and communities that rely on their services. More and more, patients, communities, and even health professionals, struggle to manage outrageous medical bills and growing medical debt. But they are also beginning to fight back against #CorporateHealthCare!
The first step is understanding why medical debt is on the rise and what you can do about it!
Join NJ Communities United and our partners, HPAE & NJ Citizen Action for a training. Register today!
RSVP for this FREE community meeting and training at www.UnitedNJ.org/MedicalDebt.
Child Care Workers at The Leaguers Need Your Support!
Child care workers are organizing all across the country. From California to New Mexico and in the Garden State, we are building a movement to demand dignity, respect and living wages for the important work we do. As our movement grows, we have built alliances with parents, teachers, and early childhood education advocates to demand more resources for affordable, quality child care programs for working families. When we win, so do our children!
SIGN THE PETITION and support our efforts to improve our working conditions AND to improve the learning the conditions for the more than 1,000 children The Leaguers workers care for in Newark, Elizabeth, Roselle, and Irvington! TELL VERONICA RAY TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND NEGOTIATE A CONTRACT!
Major Victory After New Jersey’s Public Pension Fund Voted to Divest from Hedge Funds
Major Victory After New Jersey’s Public Pension Fund Voted to Divest from Hedge Funds
New eye opening analysis from Hedge Clippers found that bad investments from hedge funds cost the NJ pension fund a staggering $1.1 billion in lost revenue and $1.6 billion in fees
Trenton, NJ – The Hedge Clippers campaign scored another major win after the New Jersey State Investment Council voted to cut its hedge fund investments in half, an equivalent to approximately $4.5 billion divestment.The Council also voted to cut allowable hedge fund fees in half, an unprecedented step that will save the pension fund hundreds of millions in fees over the coming years.
The vote took place on the same day Hedge Clippers released an eye opening report showing hedge funds underperforming investments cost the New Jersey pension fund an estimated $2.7 billion over nine years—including an estimated $1.6 billion in fees, and an additional $1.1 billion in lost investment revenue.
The move makes New Jersey the largest pension fund to divest from hedge funds since CalPERS in 2014. The effort to cut these costly and risky investments was led by a coalition of labor groups representing public employees in the state, including New Jersey Communities United, the AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America (CWA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
It is also another major victory for Hedge Clippers which has been instrumental in the hedge fund divestment movement focusing on 11 pension systems in the country, New Jersey’s being one of them. Last April, New York City Employees’ Retirement System, or NYCERS, also voted to pull about $1.5 billion in investments out of all hedge funds thanks to the work of the hedge clippers campaign.
New Jersey’s Hedge Clippers first put out a report last summer exposing how Governor Chris Christie is wasting billions on bad hedge fund investments. Today, a follow up report titled Christie’s Cronies: How Hedge Funds are Bankrupting New Jersey’s Pension Fund, exposes how two Governor Christie’s hand picked appointees to the State Investment Council, Tom Byrne, Jr. and Guy Haselmann, were instrumental in increasing the costly hedge funds allocation that is bankrupting New Jersey’s Pension Fund. The Hedge Clippers analysis estimates that hedge fund investments cost the New Jersey Pension Fund a staggering $2.7 billion over nine years.
The New Jersey Pension Fund is one of the largest public pension funds in the U.S.—and, with over $8 billion invested in hedge funds; it is also among the most prominent hedge fund investors.
"This is a huge victory and an unprecedented step in the right direction for New Jersey's public workers and taxpayers," said Paul Karr a leader from New Jersey Communities United and member of New Jersey Hedge Clippers. "At a time when Governor Christie is refusing to make pension payments, it's critical that we maximize pension investments and ensure our money makes it back into our communities - and not the pockets of Wall Street hedge fund managers."
“Workers and the public they serve deserve to know that the trustees responsible for investing their pensions have their best interests front and center. That is why today’s unanimous vote by the New Jersey PERS trustees to cut their hedge fund investment in half is so important. New Jersey’s reallocation of $4.5 billion out of hedge funds is even larger than the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s divestment in 2014, and it was done because hedge funds have failed to deliver. Trustees also voted to cut allowable hedge fund fees to half of the typical amount, a move that will save working people hundreds of millions over the coming years,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
“Our report ‘All That Glitters Is Not Gold’ found that N.J. retirees would have earned $1.1 billion more if trustees had never invested in hedge funds, and further would have saved $1.6 billion paid in fees to hedge fund managers. We’re glad to see that public pension trustees nationwide are now taking a long, hard look at the gap between hedge funds’ promises and their actual results. Union members worked hard and deferred wages to build a secure retirement for their families. Their pensions shouldn’t be gambled on risky bets or wasted on high fees that only enrich the wolves of Wall Street and Gov. Christie’s cronies,” she said.
“The State Investment Council has a responsibility to manage pension funds wisely, and this is a step in the right direction. Reducing the allocation of hedge funds and alternative investments means more money stays in the underfunded system and goes toward its intended purpose—to allow teachers, nurses, firefighters and public workers to retire with dignity after decades of tireless, dedicated service to our state’s citizens. This is the right thing to do and will help stabilize the state’s economy as a whole,” said AFT New Jersey State Federation President Donna M. Chiera.
Under Byrne and Haselmann’s leadership, the New Jersey pension fund more than doubled its hedge fund investment, from about 5.3% of the total portfolio at the end of fiscal year 2011 to over 12% by the end of fiscal year 2015.
The full report is available here