Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled plans on Thursday to expand the city’s controversial Third Party Transfer Program — and Brooklyn Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy Jr. is sounding the alarm.
Under the TPT program, the city forecloses on distressed, neglected properties and transfers them to nonprofit developers to fix them and to improve the living conditions for the properties’ tenants. De Blasio announced that the city may seize upwards of 40 distressed properties annually.
“Protecting tenants is a core part of the city’s strategy to confront the affordable housing crisis,” said de Blasio. “The city is pursuing a new local law to seize upwards of 40 of the most distressed multiple dwelling buildings annually and transition them to responsible, mission-driven ownership.”
The program, however, came under scrutiny last year after reports had emerged that the properties of more than 60 black and brown homeowners in less affluent neighborhoods had been placed in TPT, often without properly notifying them.
Housing advocates, homeowners and elected officials including Councilmember Cornegy, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery raised concerns that the program, initially launched to combat slumlords neglecting their properties, unintentionally may play into defrauding homeowners of their property.
In a statement issued yesterday, Cornegy expressed his doubts about the city’s “ability to competently identify ‘distressed’ properties.”
“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,” said Cornegy. “After my experience with last year’s transfer of over 60 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.”
The councilmember announced that plans to push for a moratorium on TPT to review and review the program’s practices.
“We need to review and reform the techniques we are using to find these properties before we consider creating and empowering an entirely new part of the government to expand these transfers,” Cornegy said. “As chair of the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, I fully intend to work with my colleagues to ensure no additional properties are transferred until we have completed a comprehensive review of the procedures the administration uses to identify distressed properties and have passed laws appropriately tailoring the city’s power to foreclose on such properties.”