Mayor Doubles Down On Commitment to Seize More Private Property


Is it a blueprint for more affordable housing or a sweetheart deal for favored multi-million dollar non-profits created during the city’s age of blight to acquire property as the city increasingly gentrifies?

Either way, City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) warned today that the city’s new initiative to seize more properties and give them to non-profits will not come at the expense of taking generational wealth out of black and brown communities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the plan today to seize upwards of 40 of the most distressed multiple dwelling buildings annually, and transition them to responsible, mission driven ownership.

“We will seize their buildings, and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve,” said de Blasio at his annual State of the City address in Manhattan.

Mayor Bill de Blasio talks about more private property seizures at State of the City address. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

De Blasio’s pronouncement comes just weeks after he announced a new Neighborhood Pillars program, in which the city will subsidize pre-qualified non-profits to purchase 7,500 rent-stabilized and unregulated buildings – many of which are smaller properties with three or more units.

Both of de Blasio’s plan have the same players and eerie similarities with the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Third Party Transfer program (TPT).

An ongoing KCP investigation of the TPT program found the city seized a number of black- and brown-owned completely paid off properties under the guise of being “distressed” and given to pre-qualified non-profits.

The KCP series, which drew hundreds of thousands of views, led to several properties being given back to the owners, several more still involved in ongoing litigation, and both city and state lawmakers calling for a federal probe.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

“I am deeply concerned by Mayor de Blasio’s  proposed expansion of property seizures like those carried out through the controversial Third Party Transfer program. After my experience with last year’s transfer of over sixty properties through TPT, I have serious doubts about the administration’s ability to competently identify ‘distressed’ properties. While I support the goal of improving protections for tenants, I cannot support expanding a policy that has already proven deeply problematic for black and brown homeowners,” said Cornegy.

“For black and brown communities, homeownership is one of the only ways to build and transfer wealth from one generation to the next. Over the course of the past year we in the Council have been forced to grapple with the aftermath of several questionable transfers of private property through the TPT program. In one case, the home of a black senior in my community valued at over $2 million was transferred for outstanding municipal arrears of only $3,000, which turned out to be a record-keeping error on the part of the City,” he added.

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