Housing advocates: Let $613M help Sandy victims

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks before Nassau

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks before Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is sworn into office for his second term in Bethpage. (Jan. 2, 2014) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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New York foreclosure victims and housing advocates want Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to rethink a plan to put the $613 million JP Morgan Chase settlement in the state's general fund and instead use the money to help those who lost their homes.

Cuomo said he and Albany leaders can decide where the money goes. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has said he wants to use the cash to prevent current foreclosures and help the hundreds of thousands of New York victims who lost their homes in the housing crisis.

Housing advocates such as Bertha Lewis, president of the nonprofit The Black Initiative, said they are concerned with the governor's plans as he had been promoting tax break proposals in his budget for the wealthy, who they say helped to create the problems in the first place.

Cuomo is proposing to cut the state's corporate income tax from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and eliminating it for manufacturers upstate.

"This settlement money was intended to help struggling homeowners in New York," she said in a statement. "JP Morgan Chase was forced to pay up to right the wrong that it has done to our communities."

Cuomo's office was not available for comment Sunday.

Many homeowners in a conference call Sunday with Lewis and other housing advocates said they signed up for subprime loans and eventually lost their houses when the monthly payments ballooned. One Queens Village caller who lost his home but did give his name during the conference call, said the settlement should go to victims of the foreclosure crisis.

"This was supposed to be our victory," he said.

Several elected officials, including Public Advocate Letitia James, City Councilman Brad Lander and state Assemb. Karim Camara, also participated in the call and vowed to push Cuomo and Schneiderman to put the victims' needs first before the budget.

"I can promise you there will be petitions and more forums about this," James said.


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