Dozens of New York foreclosure victims took to their phones Sunday in a massive phone conference to demand that the governor rethink his plans for the $613 million settlement awarded to the state attorney general's office following its lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants the money to go into the state's general fund where he and Albany leaders can decide where it goes, while Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants to use the cash to prevent current foreclosures and help the hundreds of thousands of New York victims who lost their homes in the housing crisis.
Callers, nonprofit groups and housing advocates, such as Bertha Lewis, who is the president of the nonprofit group The Black Initiative, said they are concerned with the governor's plans as he had been promoting tax breaks proposals in his budget for the wealthy, who they say helped to create the problems in the first place. Cuomo is proposing to cut the state's corporate income tax from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and eliminating it for manufacturers upstate.
"This settlement money was intended to help struggling homeowners in New York," she said in a statement. "JP Morgan Chase was forced to pay up to right the wrong that it has done to our communities."
Gov. Cuomo's office declined to comment.
Many of the homeowners in the conference call talked at length about their struggles after they signed up for subprime loans and eventually lost their houses when the monthly payments ballooned. One Queens Village caller, who didn't give his full name, said he couldn't fathom why the state just didn't go forward with its plans and fight foreclosure.
"This was supposed to be our victory," he said.
Several elected officials, including Public Advocate Leticia James, City Councilman Brad Lander and state Assemblyman Karim Camara, also participated in the call and vowed to push Cuomo and Schneiderman to put the victims' needs first before the budget.
"I can promise you there will be petitions and more forums about this," James said.