Written by Senator Jack Martins Friday, 13 April 2012 00:00
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.
Saturday, 07 December 2013 00:00
Eleni Pitzel has lived in East Williston since 1975, having raised five children. Prior to that, she and her family lived in Floral Park. Pitzel is a longtime club member, and served as corresponding secretary for two years.
Pitzel has been the club’s art instructor for four years; she also teaches art at St. Paul’s Orthodox Cathedral in West Hempstead. “My artistic skills are a gift from God, and from that gift I give back to others,” Pitzel said.
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00
A new proposal by interim Town of North Hempstead Supervisor John Riordan seeks to hike pay for elected officials. Riordan's plan would have board members’ salaries jump by $15,000 to a total of $55,000, an increase of approximately 37.5 percent. Other proposed salaries would be $138,000 for the supervisor, $115,000 for the receiver of taxes and $105,000 for the town clerk.
Riordan introduced the proposal at the last town board meeting, on Nov. 19, requesting that a resolution be placed on the agenda setting Dec. 10 for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amendment that would enable the salary increases for the 2014 calendar year.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
MAA Travel Soccer teams wrapped up their respective fall 2013 seasons recently. Two MAA teams won titles this season in the Long Island Junior Soccer League; the BU13 Mineola Empire went 9-0-1 and the GU14 Red Bulls enjoyed a 8-1-1 campaign to each win first place trophies. The GU11 Honey Badgers went undefeated (6-0-2) and finished in second place in their division, as did the GU15 Mini-Mustangs with a 7-1-1 season record.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The Mineola 12U fall intramural baseball team celebrated their fall season and tournament championship with a pizza party/awards dinner on Nov. 20. In addition to celebrating a great fall season and tournament championship, the boys were treated to an inspirational talk by coach Ken Conrade, the 2013 New York State High School Coach of the Year.
Conrade, the Kellenberg Memorial High School assistant principal for academics and girls varsity softball coach, was the keynote speaker for the awards dinner. He presented a very talked about baseball and youth sports.
Conrade’s talk was framed around each inning of a baseball game. He used stories and examples from the first to an extra “10th inning” to drive home both a sports and life lesson. For example, as part of the seventh inning stretch, he had each player stand up, stretch their legs and then go and thank their parents for their support and commitment to their baseball playing.