By Akosua Albritton
How does one go from being toasted in 2010 by Andrew Cuomo, then-State Attorney General, for sparring with predatory lender Delta Funding to restarting one’s life at age 86? Ask Mary Lee Ward. Ward was evicted from her home at 320 Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn on August 14, 2013. She considers herself “homeless, going from couch to couch” since that eviction.
She remembers the eviction being an intense, frightening experience that occurred at 10:00 AM. She remembers seeing the sheriff and police cars in front of her home and the “yelled order” to open the door or they would come in with guns drawn and take her out of the building. “They pushed me out of the door with my shopping cart that I hurriedly filled with items,” recounted Ms. Ward. She left her furniture and motorized wheelchair inside.
Ward describes the current state of the house as “just sitting locked in disuse with my property still inside”. Can anyone imagine being elderly and being ousted from one’s home of 38 years? Ward visited the 79th Police Precinct some time after the eviction to get details; the police officer at the front desk said they had nothing to do with the eviction.
320 Tompkins Avenue had been owned by Mary Ward. NYC Department of Finance’s ACRIS records reveal that on November 19, 1975, Ward obtained the deed and mortgage to this property. Yet, by June 12, 2008, the house was foreclosed.
“I received the notice the day before. One Bruce Goldstein was appointed referee to the sale at the foreclosure. Mr. Choudhury bought the house that same day for $345,000,” explained Ms. Ward. Apparently, Mr. Choudhury is part of 768 Dean, Inc., as this is the party of record in ACRIS.
Moving to current times, Ms. Ward sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo on May 2015, requesting his help with her current state of affairs. Ward contacted Gov. Cuomo because on “October 18, 2000, she had been on television with then-State Attorney General Cuomo and US Senator Charles Schumer regarding their effort to bring predatory lenders to justice”. One such lender, Delta Funding, was ordered to distribute $12 million to 400 past customers. Ms. Ward—one of the 400—used Delta Funding to refinance her home in order to cover an adoption battle.
The governor’s response to Ward’s plea for help in a letter dated June 22, 2015 was that “he turned over the matter to his administration”.
In June 2015, Ward went to a realtor to find a place to rent. She chose a unit at 147 Schenectady Avenue in Brooklyn, owned by Rudolph Moses. The living arrangement is one where she has a separate entrance into her bedroom and living room but shares the kitchen and bathroom with another tenant. She agreed to pay half of the Con Edison bill, though the bill is in the name of the other tenant.
With a monthly Social Security allotment of $1,019 to live on, she applied for the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) in August 2015 and was found qualified for the program, however, her domicile was not legal. Similarly, her application for rental assistance from the NYC Human Resources Administration was turned down for the same reason.
Falling behind in her rent, she received a 30-day notice on January 7, 2016 from her landlord, wherein she has by February 29, 2016 to get current in her rent or face court proceedings for eviction. She’s turned to South Brooklyn Legal Services for counsel and representation.
Her relationship with her landlord (Rudolph Moses) deteriorated to a point where “he’s threatened her and broke the lock on her door”. Ward has an Order of Protection on Mr. Moses, which expires July 2016.
Ms. Ward is determined to turn her household situation around. She joined a Fort Greene Council Senior Center in December 2015, not only for comradery, meals and recreation, but to access all social services that are provided through Department for the Aging-funded agencies. She is registered with Workforce One Career Center, at age 86, to occupational training and to secure a job.