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Foreclosure Crisis Becoming Health Hazard in Queens

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from The New York Amsterdam News –

As the foreclosure crisis continues to sweep across the country, in New York City, Queens has been the hardest hit of the five boroughs. And in the predominately middle-class neighborhoods of Southeast Queens, where many African-Americans live, people are feeling the devastating effects of the financial crisis, the economic downturn and the overall recession, which may have hit their communities even harder than other Queens neighborhoods.

As communities from Far Rockaway to South Ozone Park and Jamaica have been struggling to cope with the economics, City Council Member Leroy Comrie has identified another problem.

Over the last few years, homes abandoned due to foreclosures have fallen into disrepair and become dumping grounds for garbage, debris and drug-related activities-problems these communities have worked extremely hard to minimize in recent years.

Residents recently brought two specific locations to Comrie's attention, and his office reached out to NYC Community Clean-Up to assist with addressing potentially dangerous and hazardous conditions.

"Abandoned homes in Southeast Queens have become a growing quality of life crisis," said Comrie. "As the center of the foreclosure epidemic, this community has seen many homes seized by financial institutions and negligent landlords, who make no effort to keep the properties cleaned and properly secured. This behavior results in the growth of vagrancy, drug dealing and garbage dumping, thereby negatively impacting the quality of life in these communities."

The two homes in Comrie's district that drew attention to the issue in Southeast Queens held by U.S. Bank National Association. Comrie called the practice by financial institutions of leaving properties to decay "outrageous."

"Left unchecked, these foreclosed properties are quality-of-life time bombs in our community," he said. "It contributes to the kind of urban decay that invariably damages neighborhoods and makes them unsafe on many levels. It is my hope that potential federal and state legislation will force these ‘landlords' to be responsible corporate citizens and maintain their properties."

With help from NYC Community Clean-Up, the problem is solved. The citywide initiative is designed to address neighborhood hot spots and eyesores. Using data from a variety of sources-the city's 311 system, foreclosure reports, crime maps-NYC Community Cleanup identifies neighborhoods across New York City that are struggling with visible signs of disorder.

The initiative also puts low-level offenders to work, repairing conditions of disorder or neglect throughout New York City. The goal is to create meaningful community service work-projects that emphasize the values of immediacy, visibility and accountability.

"When these situations are brought to my attention, my staff will reach out to the property owners, who in most cases are unresponsive to verbal and written communications, asking them to clean and secure the buildings," Comrie said. "Therefore, we are left with no alternative but to rely on organizations like NYC Community Clean-Up to address the unsanitary conditions. I want to thank NYC Community Clean-Up for their efforts today in helping these two blocks in Queens to momentarily clean up the blight in their neighborhood."

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