WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Senator: City Not Using Law to Force Upkeep of Foreclosures
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
New York City is not enforcing a 2009 state law that requires owners of foreclosed properties maintain them, according to the state senator who wrote the law.
State Senator Jeff Klein, who represents portions of Westchester and the Bronx, came to the scene of a fatal Bronx fire that killed a twelve year old and his parents last April to make his point that the tragedy could have been averted if the City had invoked his legislation.
"Three people were killed in this home on Prospect Avenue and it is unfortunate because the legislation I fought very hard to pass could have saved these lives," Klein asserted Monday.
Today, 2321 Prospect Avenue is boarded up and garbage is strewn all over the sidewalk. Two adjacent residential properties also damaged in the fire do not appear to be inhabited. The April fire is being investigated by the Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.
Klein said under the terms of his legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Paterson, after seven days notice any municipal government has the right to enter a foreclosed premise and make an inspection and make sure all violations are quickly remediated.
'We have a very tough law on the books which allows the local building department anywhere in the state of New York to go in and make these repairs with seven days notice and send the lending institution and the bank the bill," said Klein.
A spokeswoman for the Bloomberg Administration says the law does not guarantee city inspectors can get access to the buildings in question.
Klein said his office had conducted a citywide survey and found that 2,000 foreclosed properties that have some 3,751 violations, all which the City could immediately get rolling on by either forcing their owners to resolve them or actually contracting out the repair work and billing the owners.
Klein was joined by State Senator Diane Savino and community activists trying to prevent the decline of foreclosed properties from further depressing property values.
Jean Sassine with New York Communities for Change said just a single non-maintained foreclosure can depress property values in a whole neighborhood.
"You start getting commercial people who start dumping on abandoned property so it only makes it worse," said Sassine. "You have the drug dealers showing up in abandoned property using as a place of business."