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Nearly 5,000 foreclosed homes were scheduled for auction in 2008 on Long Island alone. With that number likely on the rise in 2009, dozens of families, including some who believe they fell victim to "predatory lenders," rallied on the steps of the county's Supreme Court building Jan. 13, calling for an end to weekly foreclosure auctions and a moratorium on all home foreclosures in New York State to enable residents a grace period to seek refinancing options.

Protesters made their presence known at the Jan. 13 auction, where more than 30 homes were sold, marching on the court steps and chanting "stop the auction now."

Over the next several weeks, the ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) organization will deploy its "Stop the Foreclosures Now" campaign to challenge the banks, and government, to make changes for the better.

"Right now there's no real incentive for lenders to get serious about adjusting subprime loans for families in crisis," Diane Goins, an ACORN leader who attended the rally, said. "That's why New York State needs to step in and put an end to these auctions and enact a moratorium on foreclosures so homeowners can buy time to work out their loans and stay in their homes."

Long Island foreclosures account for 20 percent of New York State's foreclosure filings, according to ACORN. In the unincorporated neighborhoods within the Town of Hempstead, a total of 1,532 were scheduled in 2008 in towns like East Meadow, Elmont, Franklin Square, Levittown, Roosevelt, Uniondale and West Hempstead.

Hempstead Village saw 322 scheduled foreclosure auctions in 2008 while five were scheduled in the Village of Garden City, 13 in the Village of Floral Park, 11 in the Village of South Floral Park, 17 in the Village of Mineola and two in the Village of Stewart Manor. Nineteen were scheduled for the Village of Massapequa Park, 10 for the Village of New Hyde Park, three in the Village of Roslyn, 10 for the Village of Farmingdale and eight in the Village of Great Neck.

Leaders in the fight consider a foreclosure moratorium the boldest approach yet to protect families in jeopardy. ACORN's counseling services have helped some facing financial hardship while many others have already lost their homes to the auction block.

The ACORN advocacy group supports President Barack Obama's call for a 90-day foreclosure moratorium and is urging the governor and county executive to push for mandatory mediation programs that would require lenders and borrowers to meet and work out affordable payment options. One such program already exists in Philadelphia, where 80 percent of homes scheduled for auction are now being saved.

In November 2008, County Executive Tom Suozzi announced the formation of the Long Island Housing Crisis Task Force, charged with mitigating foreclosures on Long Island.

The county's Office of Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs received a $7.8 million grant for the Office of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) new Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Nassau County is teaming up with JP Morgan Chase, Citi and other mortgage lenders to stabilize communities. JP Morgan Chase agreed to the 90-day grace period in order to help at-risk homeowners. Suozzi, however, is calling on all mortgage lenders to follow suit.

"Nassau County residents are being affected more and more every day by the economic crisis the rest of the nation is experiencing," he said. "With over 6,000 foreclosure filings, it is clear that our residents are in need of assistance and the $7.8 million grant will enable us to provide some relief to communities and residents that were hardest hit by the foreclosures."

Last month, local senators released a report listing the top 10 banks they say are responsible for foreclosing on New Yorkers during the holiday season despite receiving more than a $122 billion bailout.

Senator Craig Johnson, along with Deputy Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Klein, recently proposed to standardize Operation Protect Your Home, a foreclosure prevention forum, to help stem the rising tide of foreclosures in the state by requiring lenders to meet with borrowers to work out mutually beneficial financial solutions.

The report, authored by Senator Klein's office, examined foreclosure trends in the New York metropolitan area and found that the top 10 banks - or what they dubbed "subprime scrooges" - responsible for the most foreclosures on Long Island are: US Bank, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Bank of America, The Bank of New York, Citigroup, Indymac and Capitol One.

"These foreclosures and the predatory loans that spawned them are the spark that set off this financial crisis," Senator Johnson said during a December press conference in front of a foreclosed home in Westbury. "It is simply unacceptable that many of these banks have by and large been disinclined to help families stay in their homes - especially during the holidays - yet are lining up for a taxpayer-funded bailout."

Last year, the state Senate worked with the New York State Banking Department and over 15 lending institutions to create Operation Protect Your Home. Distressed homeowners from across New York attended one-on-one modification meetings with their lenders in seven counties. More than 3,500 at-risk mortgages were discussed for modification under this program.

Governor David Paterson's 2008 subprime lending law made formal settlement conferences between lenders and borrowers mandatory within 60 days of a foreclosure filing on any subprime or non-traditional mortgage.

According to Senator Johnson, however, that new legislation will be introduced this month to extend this protection to all residential mortgage borrowers.

Lastly, the senators renewed their push for the Legislature to pass the Senator Klein-sponsored Neighborhood Preservation Act (S.7028), which would allow a municipality to enforce safety and habitability requirements for every bank-owned property. (Studies have shown that neighborhoods surrounding a foreclosed property are subjected to increased crime and devaluation of surrounding properties, according to the senators.)

Those running the risk of losing their home can call ACORN at 347-410-5894 for free counseling on alternatives to foreclosure. Residents can also call the Nassau County Homeownership Foreclosure Hotline at 571-HOME (4663) or the Nassau County Homeownership Center HUD Certified Housing Counseling Agency at 572-1903. The county offers these services free of charge.

(Editor's Note: "Hempstead (Town, Outside of Villages)" includes: Baldwin, Bellmore, East Meadow, Elmont, Franklin Square, Hewlett-Woodmere, Levittown, Merrick, North Bellmore, Oceanside, Roosevelt, Uniondale, Valley Stream and West Hempstead.)
Atlantic Beach
2
Baxter Estates
1
Bayville
8
Brookville
5
Cedarhurst
59
East Hills
3
East Rockaway
10
East Rockaway
2
East Williston
3
Farmingdale
10
Floral Park
13
Flower Hill
2
Freeport
284
Garden City
5
Glen Cove (Town)
25
Great Neck
8
Great Neck Estates
6
Hempstead (Town, Outside Of Villages)
1,532
Hempstead (Village)
322
Hewlett Harbor
1
Island Park
14
Kings Point
3
Lake Success
3
Lawrence
6
Long Beach (Town)
40
Lynbrook
19
Malverne
11
Manor Haven
4
Massapequa Park
19
Mineola
17
Muttontown
6
New Hyde Park
10
North Hempstead (Town, Outside Of Villages)
201
North Hills
3
Old Brookville
3
Old Westbury
2
Oyster Bay (Town, Outside Of Villages)
282
Rockville Centre
13
Roslyn
3
Roslyn Harbor
1
Saddle Rock
1
Sands Point
3
Sea Cliff
3
South Floral Park
11
Stewart Manor
2
Thomaston
1
Valley Stream
96
Westbury
55
Williston Park
3

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