Editor’s Note: The following is the 18th of a KCP investigative series by reporters Kelly Mena and Stephen Witt on how New York City is taking paid off properties from longtime small property owners, including black and brown seniors, and giving them to connected non-profit and for-profit developers as gentrification sweeps across Brooklyn.
City Council Member Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Gowanus, Park Slope) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (D) next week are expected to ask for a large-scale state and federal investigation into the city’s taking of fully paid off black and brown people’s properties dating back to earlier in this decade, KCP has learned.
Specifically, the investigation will focus on the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) Third Party Transfer (TPT) program, which has seen a number of questionable seizures of the properties as well as co-op properties under the city’s Housing Development Fund Companies (HDFC) program.
The call for a deeper investigation comes following a multi-part KCP investigation series into the program, which found at least four questionable seizures of fully-paid off black- and Hispanic-owned properties worth millions of dollars in the city’s latest round of at seizures through the program.
The city has agreed to return one of the properties, and sources say the city is expected to return a second of the properties. The other two properties are currently under litigation.
Additionally, several other former property owners who lost their property under the TPT program from as far back as 2011 came forward at a town hall on the program last night at the Brooklyn Law School in Downtown Brooklyn.
Cornegy told KCP about the lawmakers planning to ask the state and the feds to step in with an independent investigation, and said he himself just learned that the city council has subpoena powers over city agencies. “We will subpoena the records of HPD’s legal department that we were unable to get as it relates to all properties transferred going back to at least 2015 and possibly before that,” said Cornegy, who chairs the council’s Building and Services Committee.
Cornegy said the lawmakers are also seeking to ask federal investigators to look at the state judicial system where three state Supreme Court judges oversee almost all the foreclosures, and in which most appear to disproportionately come from communities of color.
“These foreclosure cases all can’t be in minority communities. Everyone has faced foreclosures crisis, but the lion’s share of actual foreclosures and transfers of property are in these neighborhoods. We want a list from the city of what other neighborhoods has HPD looked at for their TPT program,” said Cornegy.