More than two dozen people turned out last weekend to support longtime Brooklyn resident Victoria Stennett in her dispute with Emigrant Bank and to call out the bank’s alleged unfair and racist lending practices.
Stennett, founder of the My Black Money Matters organization, has been embroiled in a legal battle with the bank — which was found guilty by a federal jury in 2016 of discriminating against minorities through its marketing of subprime mortgages — for nearly a decade and a half, which began with insurance proceeds for her fire-damaged home.
The bank is now demanding nearly $4 million from Stennett, or has said it will seize both her Amersfort Place, at the center of the dispute, and another property she owns.
“They are just predatory lenders,” Stennett told BK Reader.
The rally, which was co-sponsored by the activist group Equality for Flatbush, saw 30 demonstrators march from the Amersfort Place home, which is still dilapidated from the fire that took place 13 years ago, to the intersection of Avenue H and Flatbush Avenue
“I felt that I needed to lend a voice to what I think is just sheer injustice,” Flatbush resident Wendy Inniss said. “I believe if it could happen to someone like Ms. Stennett, then it could happen to any one of us.”
A representative for Emigrant Bank said the bank could not confirm at publication whether Stennett was a customer of the bank’s. However, Stennett provided multiple documents showing communication between her and the bank regarding her mortgage dating back to 2009.
Stennett said back in 2006, she went to Emigrant Bank to take out a mortgage to purchase a 16-unit apartment building on Flatbush Avenue. The bank, she said, advised her to pay off the mortgage on her own home on Amersfort Place to use it as collateral for the apartment building mortgage, rather than make a down payment of 13%. So she did just that.
Two years later, in 2008, there was a fire at the Amersfort home, and Stennett filed a claim with her homeowner’s insurance company. It was then that Stennett said she discovered her insurance company had made a clerical error that resulted in her failing to be notified that her homeowner’s insurance policy had been canceled months earlier, and that Emigrant Bank had taken out an insurance policy on her home without her knowledge.
But Stennett said the bank refused to allow the approximately $190,000 insurance payout to be released to pay for the damages to her home or to apply it to the mortgage for the apartment building, even while she continued to pay them every month for two years.
After years in court, Stennett said the bank had still never paid her anything, even after a judge said she should have received the insurance payout. Emigrant Bank has also appointed a receiver for her apartment building and collects $170,000 in rent for her building, while applying a 24% default rate and other fees to her mortgage, demanding millions from her, she said.
“There is no way someone like me should be in this position,” Stennett said.
“This is no normal foreclosure case. My rights have been violated up and down to force me into this position.”