City Ordered to Return Seized Properties Back to Owners

The tenants of 25 MacDonough St. are angered that the city has not been forthcoming about the takeover of the building and several told KCP they were never given proper notice that the city took it. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg via Kings County Politics)

On March 28, Kings County Supreme Court Judge Mark Partnow ruled that the city violated the Constitution when it seized six properties in central Brooklyn. He ordered the city to return them to their owners, in turn “restoring millions of dollars of intergenerational wealth in the Black and Latino community,” writes Kings County Politics’ Stephen Witt and Kelly Mena.

The decision came six months after the publication started its series on investigating the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s seizures of predominantly Black-owned properties, under the guise of being “distressed,” via the Third Party Transfer program. Two of the properties profiled in the series were among the six included in the ruling: 25 McDonough St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant and 19 Kingsland Ave. in Williamsburg/Bushwick.

“The City has particularly targeted properties that are owned by minorities. The court recognizes that home ownership is an important means for families to build intergenerational wealth. While the Third Party Transfer Program was intended to be a beneficial program, an overly broad and improper application of it that results in the unfair divestiture of equity in one’s property cannot be permitted,” wrote Partnow in his ruling.

Partnow found several problems with the taking of all these properties including a lack of process in serving property owners that their property was being taken, and that the properties in questions never met the definition of being distressed.

But time and again, in each of the cases Partnow noted the city took properties worth millions of dollars without giving any equity/compensation to the owners.

“The transfer of the Kingsland property to Neighborhood Restore is also unconscionable and shocking in the conscience of the court based on the amount of the City’s lien versus the substantial value of the Kingsland property. In addition, since the Kingsland property is not a distressed property, the taking of it through the Third Party Transfer program would constitute an unlawful taking of private property without just compensation in violation of Kingsland’s HDFC’s constitutional rights under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Consitution and article 1, section 7, of the New York State Constitution,” he wrote.

“Most of this could be easily resolved,” said Yolande Nicholson, president of the New York State Foreclosure Defense Bar “and the driving force behind the class action lawsuit.” Find out how, hear reaction from a member of the family that owns 25 McDonough St. and read more from Partnow’s decision, at Kings County Politics.

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  1. Pingback: – Property Seizure Series Inspires Artwork

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