Queens lawmakers continue call to cancel city’s lien sale

Photo by Dean Moses

Queens lawmakers called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to cancel the city’s lien sale this year in the hopes of preventing further financial damage to homeowners who may already be struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

Joined by state Attorney General Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the Queens lawmakers, including State Senators Leroy Comrie and John Liu, Assemblyman David Weprin, City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams and acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee, demanded that the annual sale of homeowner’s debt be cancelled outright, despite originally being delayed from May 15 until Sept. 4 earlier this year.

Should the sale not be canceled, owners of properties eligible for the tax lien have until the end of Sept. 3 to pay the debt on their properties. If they don’t, they must enter into a payment agreement with the city’s Department of Finance. Once a lien is sold, the owner must arrange a payment agreement with the lien servicing company or risk legal seizure of their home.

“It’s inexplicable that the de Blasio administration would go forward with this lien sale. Make no mistake about it, the lien sale leads a homeowner and their family down the path toward foreclosure, bankruptcy, homelessness,” Liu said. “In this pandemic and economic crisis that we’re in right now, the last thing the city should be doing is putting any families down this path.”

In Queens, 1,566 properties are on the lien sale list. Over half of the Queens properties are located in southeast Queens, a region of the borough populated primarily by people of color.

“This will disrupt communities, this will destabilize communities,” Lee said. “As we know, home ownership is one of the keys to generational wealth. Do not disrupt what we are trying to build. Stabilize it.”

According to the mayor, the lien sale provides much needed income to the city, which, on the whole, has experienced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. However, the lawmakers who gathered in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday warned that collecting money through the lien sale would result in higher costs for the city down the line.

“There is no question that the city needs money, but this action will actually result in the city having to spend more money in the way of services and other support structures for those families that fall victim to the city’s own polices,” Liu said.