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From the desk of NY State Senator Jack Martins: April 10, 2012

Help For Homeowners

It started out simple enough. Since taking office I’ve had a small but steady stream of constituents who seek help with various mortgage and foreclosure problems. I regularly connect them to appropriate state agencies and having heard back about a number of successful resolutions, I decided to host a local seminar for anyone experiencing similar issues. I invited the New York Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office, the state’s Department of Financial Services, and even some of the larger lenders.

I thought booking a large meeting room at the Elmont Library was overkill as we had only 25 constituents RSVP, but when I arrived that Saturday morning my jaw dropped. More than 420 people were waiting. Entire families were there, lined up against the walls, waiting in the hall, some even sitting on the floor between rows of chairs. My stomach sank as I looked into what I could see were desperate faces. Not knowing where to start with such a large crowd, we broke off at three tables: the AG’s office at one, financial services at another, and my staff at yet another. I canceled all my appointments that morning as I became absorbed in what was a sobering experience.

Let me start by confirming that with few exceptions, most were employed, hardworking couples, with fair to good credit, who were now inexplicably facing a mortgage crisis, or worse, foreclosure. As our offices interviewed, a recurring pattern of unfair lending practices became evident. Truthfully, it’s hard to believe how some lenders scam people with the same, well-worn techniques, time and again. The AG’s office left that day with 300 legitimate cases.          

For example, I met a well-employed Latino couple that spent years saving for a down payment and whose credit had been near perfect. They were now facing foreclosure because of astronomical mortgage payments. I asked how this happened given their fairly decent circumstances. It turns out their lender continuously promised to have a translator available to help with contracts but one never materialized. At their closing, the lender actually had the couple’s grade-school children translate for them!  Naturally, their contract was a sham and their mortgage rate eventually ballooned. Not only were they losing their home, but their credit rating was being destroyed. Like many immigrants, they spoke English but hardly understood contract legalese. The fact is the lender didn’t want anything translated and sadly, this happens all too often.  

We also heard numerous complaints from those who had applied for loan modifications. They came with all their paperwork in order and even produced signed, certified mail documentation as evidence it had been received. Yet repeatedly, these families waited for months on end without any response whatsoever. Written correspondence and phone calls were routinely ignored. One senior citizen even allowed me to listen to a disturbing, taped conversation with her lender in which her agent was downright disrespectful and dismissive.

I could go on but it wouldn’t be helpful. Instead, I want those facing these dire straits to know you don’t have to go it alone. Our state’s Attorney General’s office and our Department of Financial Services have attorneys who can, where appropriate, interface with lenders and facilitate fair resolutions. But you must take the first step so I encourage you to visit “Help for Homeowners” at www.dfs. ny.gov/consumer/mortg.htm and get informed. Then please remember that patience, persistence and preparation are key to sorting through these paper trails and keeping your piece of the American dream.

Instability in our housing market including foreclosures in our own communities actually affects us all. The sooner we are able to restructure our home loans to provide stable and predictable payments, the sooner we can take a huge step to climb out of this economic downturn. 

News

Winthrop University Hospital employee Jeffrey Brenner, a hyperbaric technician with the Life Support Technologies group in Mineola, recently received the American Heart Association’s prestigious Louis J. Acampora Heart Saver Award at a dinner at the Crest Hollow Country Club. The award is named for a Long Island teenager who succumbed to a sporting injury that is understood to have been preventable if a cardiac medical device had been immediately on-scene and applied. 

 

“I hope that I have made a real difference in my town and the world around me to help prevent death and improve the quality of people’s lives” said Brenner.

The Wheatley School recently hosted an Item Writing Workshop for more than 100 language teachers representing districts across New York State.  The workshop was sponsored by the Foreign Language Association of Chairpersons and Supervisors (FLACS), the professional organization that has assumed responsibility for the creation and administration of the FLACS

Checkpoint A and B Exams (formerly the NYS Second Language Proficiency and Regents Exams).


Sports

After consecutive seasons of finishing runner-up in the men’s golf Player of the Year for the Skyline Conference, Christian Bleck of St. Joseph’s took home first place in a rather unlikely turn of events. 

 

After a herniated disc caused the Chaminade High School alum to miss every event after the first week of the season until the conference tournament, Bleck returned—without even having the luxury of practicing a full 18 holes—and competed with the best players the conference has to offer. 

Cross-Country Crowned Champs

The Mineola Mustang boys cross-country team won the division 4A championship recently at Bethpage State Park.  This is the first championship for the program since 1974, ending a 40-year championship drought. 

 

Mineola defeated Seaford, who also entered the undefeated in division competition, 38-20.  Overcoming rain and high winds throughout the race, many Mustangs ran personal records for the 5K in route to the victory.


Calendar

Mineola School Meeting - November 20

Fools Rush In - November 21

Mustangs Face Roosevelt - November 22 


Columns

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