SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva, Glenn Rossman, Ava Smith, Elizabeth White

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Elected Officials Join Justice for Homeowners, Tenants, Community Groups And Labor To Demand HPD Reform

Congressman Charles Rangel Leads The Call for Comprehensive Reform

NEW YORK, April 11, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hundreds of New York City homeowners and tenants were today joined by political, community and labor leaders in demanding comprehensive procurement reform to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

"As a homeowner of an HPD built house, I can tell you that what HPD is doing is wrong," said Ari Estrella of Justice for Homeowners.  "We placed our faith and hard earned money in HPD and the City of New York and we have been lied to, exploited  and let down every step of the way.  We stand together today to highlight the numerous units of 'affordable housing' that have been built by contractors and developers – many affiliated with a group called NYSAFAH  – who we believe have built substandard housing, while reaping the rewards of millions of dollars' worth of taxpayer funds.  We are here today to say enough is enough.  Now is the time to once and for all fix our homes and the HPD building process."

HPD is the New York City agency charged with building and preserving New York City's affordable housing.  Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mandate, HPD was charged with building or rehabilitating 165,000 units of affordable housing.   During that period of time, HPD was embroiled in a series of scandals that exposed rampart corruption by HPD officials and contractors.

United States Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) said, "It's unfortunate that many of the homeowners who bought their homes under the HPD program are facing many difficulties within the current system.   As we move forward with Mayor de Blasio's ambitious goal of creating 200,000 new units of affordable housing, we must make sure that these units are built properly and that future homeowners are protected.  Only with comprehensive HPD procurement reform can that be accomplished.  I will work closely with my colleagues in city and state government to improve upon the HPD program to protect my constituents and other residents of the City who live in HPD housing."

Under the leadership of Mayor de Blaiso, New York City is poised to undertake the most ambitious affordable housing program in a generation.   For too long elected officials have danced around the edges of the systemic problems that continue to plague HPD.   As result of the way HPD has awarded contracts, millions of dollars have been misappropriated, workers have been exploited and residents have been left with shoddy, dangerous homes.  Thousands of hard working New Yorkers, who trusted HPD and the City when they entered into agreements to buy homes, continue to live in the horrible, dangerous homes, built by HPD and their corrupt contractors.   Further adding to the outrage and anger of the homeowners and their supporters is a recently filed frivolous lawsuit by BFC partners, a major HPD developer.

"I am in shock," said Judith Febbraro, one of the homeowners being sued.  "I thought as an American I had a right to ask my elected officials for help.  Because I asked for help, a rich, powerful contractor, who appears to be very politically connected, is trying to destroy me.  I can't fight him and I can't win.  All I ever wanted was a safe, clean home, for me and my neighbors.  That is what the City promised us and that is all we have ever asked and paid for," added Febbraro.

Civil rights attorney Yetta Kurland, of The Kurland Group, the firm representing the 3 individuals being sued said,   "Tenants should not have to fear being sued for millions of dollars because they complain about problems with their housing conditions.  Powerful moneyed interests like the developer who brought this suit should be held accountable for misusing our legal system to bring frivolous lawsuits that seek to bully HPD homeowners who dare to ask for help into silence.  New York's Civil Rights law makes it illegal to sue a private citizen who speaks out on public issues and people who bring such suits can be held liable for damages.   Demanding that HPD housing be built well is protected speech and we intend to seek all possible damages against the developer for bringing this suit against these homeowners."

Robert Bonanza, business manager of the 17,000 member Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York said, "Unfortunately this is once again an example of the systemic problems that exist at HPD.  These homeowners are just the latest example of the thousands of New Yorkers who have played by the rules, thought they were getting a fair deal from the City and HPD, and now find themselves in poorly built, dangerous homes.  And for a developer, who has made millions off the backs of these New Yorkers, to now sue these homeowners, is so offensive that it defies all reason.  Homeowners have suffered in these dangerous homes, workers have been robbed of millions of dollars of wages and benefits, yet these contractors and developers continue to reap the benefits of millions in profits from HPD projects.  However, we stand at the crossroads of a new day, and under the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito I hope that we can finally address the systemic problems that have plagued HPD for years."  

SOURCE Justice for Homeowners

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