The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman defended the state's...

The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman defended the state's case. (Nov. 2, 2010) Credit: Charles Eckert

It's a start.

That much, at least, can be said of a $26-billion settlement announced Thursday of charges that five big banks cut legal corners in foreclosing on homes.

The settlement was negotiated by the nation's state attorneys general, who'd investigated the foreclosure shenanigans. New York will participate, thanks to a narrowed immunity for the financial institutions.

This was demanded by New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. He held out for months against broader protection for the banks, who were in hot water in their capacity as mortgage servicers. But the job of investigating the banks' role in the crash of 2008 is far from finished. Schneiderman, who was appointed co-chair of a federal task force on this very subject, has to keep digging.

The settlement is especially timely for Long Island, where many homeowners are in deep trouble. In Suffolk County, one in eight mortgages is either 90 days overdue or in foreclosure. In Nassau, it's one in 10.

For Long Island homeowners in distress, the settlement falls short of a comprehensive rescue. But it is a chance for some real relief. Uncle Sam estimates that loan modifications and refinancings enabled by the settlement should bring more than 46,000 New Yorkers $635 million worth of benefits. Another $136 million will fund loan counseling and legal help. Long Islanders whose homes are at risk should take full advantage.