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Alan Hevesi warns CB 12 about predatory lending

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Community Board 12...

By Betsy Scheinbart

City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who is running for mayor, visited Community Board 12 in Jamaica last week and spoke about predatory lending practices while the board chairman discussed financial priorities for the next fiscal year.

Community Board 12 covers Jamaica, South Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans and a northern section of Springfield Gardens.

Hevesi said predatory lending is a scam that is occurring all over New York City and affects senior citizens in particular. Yvonne Reddick, the board’s district manager, said predatory lending is a major problem in her district because of the high interest rates charged by area banks.

“I find it very hard to believe that everyone has bad credit, but the banks are absolutely red-lining,” Reddick said.

Low-interest loans are a ploy that often entices seniors, but when they die, their families are left to pay back mammoth interest rates that can be higher than the original loan, Reddick said.

Seniors may get fliers about services that fix leaky roofs or consolidate credit bills, Hevesi said, and they sign contracts for these services.

Instead of a bargain, the victims of predatory lending end up with financially burdensome contracts they cannot escape. Many seniors have lost their homes as a result of these contracts, Hevesi said at the March 21 meeting.

State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who is running for governor, joined Hevesi at recent meetings with banks and banking associations to inform them of the situation.

“Let’s accuse them of fraud because that’s what it is,” Hevesi said about the groups that practice predatory lending.

The Federal Trade Commission has already sued two groups suspected of being lending predators, Hevesi said.

By the middle of last week, Hevesi had held eight of the 12 educational seminars he has scheduled at senior centers, he said.

Hevesi said he tells the seniors: “If you don’t understand the contract, don’t sign it” and “if it looks to good to be true, don’t sign it.”

Before Hevesi’s presentation, Community Board 12 Chairman James Davis reviewed the board’s capital budget requests, which were submitted to the Queens Borough Board March 7, approved and sent to the City Council.

Each community board submitted its top 10 requests for the next fiscal year. School construction projects led Board 12’s wish list, including a new wing for PS 48 and a gymnasium for PS 36, both in Jamaica.

Next the board asked that the Van Dolan Park Comfort Station be reconstructed and new play equipment installed, followed by a request for new curbs on 205th Place from 99th Avenue to Hollis Avenue.

Construction of a retaining wall at York College Athletic Complex is No. 5 on the board’s list, followed by catch basins on several Jamaica streets.

The board also asked for the replacement of all lampposts and traffic signals within the Business Improvement District in Jamaica. Reddick said that area of Jamaica Avenue is too dark at night and she hopes to have the lamp fixtures replaced.

CB 12 also requested funds for the grading and paving of the South Jamaica area bounded by South Road, Guy Brewer Boulevard, Baisley Boulevard and Sutphin Boulevard.

Finally, the board would like 183rd Street, from the underpass of the Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica Avenue, to be reconstructed.

For more information about predatory lending, call Alan Hevesi’s Citizen Action Center at (212) 669-3916 or the 24-hour waste/fraud hotline at (212) 669-4600.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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