Foreclosure Fallout: Did Organizing for Occupation's Singing Protest Accomplish Anything?

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Michelle D. Anderson
1241 Flatbush Ave. was sold at auction on Thursday, despite a song-delayed court session
Last week the Voice reported on Organizing for Occupation's first co-sponsored Occupy Wall Street action in Brooklyn, which took place at the Brooklyn Supreme on Thursday and saw the arrest of nine people.

The event, which sought to bring awareness to the mass foreclosures in the city by rallying against the auction proceedings of three Brooklyn addresses, drew local coverage with its unorthodox tactics, like grinding court to a halt by singing a song called "Mrs. Auctioneer."

By the end of the day, only one of the three buildings set to be auctioned (which had all been profiled by the Voice before Thursday's protest) was sold to a new owner.

The location, 1241 Flatbush Avenue, houses the restaurant New Bombay Masala. After the auction was complete, we interviewed the manager and the co-owners to see if they knew about the sale.

Co-owner Arzan Khan, whom we did not interview in our first report, said, he too, was unaware that the building had been put up for sale and that a buyer purchased it in court on Thursday. As of Friday, he said he has not heard from his landlord regarding the ownership on the property.

Khan, manager Iqbal Hossain, and co-owner Mohammed Manik are now worried about the future of their restaurant and want to know how they can keep it with a new landlord set to take over.

"We put a lot of money in this business," said Hossain, who said he viewed coverage of Thursday's protest on the restaurant's television.

If the singing protestors could not stop the sale of the Flatbush Avenue location even for a day, their efforts seem to have spared the Dean and Glen Street addresses that were on the auction block for at least another week. Neither of them were sold.

Unable to reach him in our previous report, the Voice interviewed the owner of the 90 Glen Street home after Thursday's auction. Zaman lives there with his wife and their three children, ages 12 to 19. The family moved to the home six years ago, Zaman said.

He said he supported Thursday's protests upon finding out that the groups' activities concerned foreclosure throughout the city.

Zaman said the "bankers on Wall Street could have been more diligent and used more research" when they made decisions like using credit default swaps, which ultimately contributed to a major financial meltdown in late 2008.

Zaman said he became self-employed construction worker after losing his job at Acordia, Inc., which later became Wells Fargo Insurance Services in 2007. There, he worked as an accountant, but after being laid off, he struggled to make mortgage payments on his home.

Zaman said he had been trying to get rid of the home via a "short sale," a transaction conducted in real estate when the owner sells the home for a price lower than what is due on the mortgage loan. Zaman said he previously attempted to modify the loan to no avail, but struggled to negotiate with his lender, Citibank.

"They're awful to work with," he said. "They're losing material all the time. I'm constantly faxing papers."

Michael Nicholas, a New York resident who buys property, said he comes to the foreclosure auctions at Brooklyn Supreme Court every Thursday and last week's sale was no exception.

Nicholas was present throughout Thursday's auction, after Occupy Wall Street and O4O organizers (and the Voice's Steven Thrasher) were kicked out of court.

"In my ten years coming here, I've never seen anything like it," Nicholas said. "It's really an eye opener."

Nicholas explained how many times at foreclosure sales, the homes that are publicized for auction never make it the foreclosure court.

"The banks are forced to modify the loans. The court is telling them that they shouldn't have offered loan in the first place," Nicholas said.

manderson@villagevoice.com | @michellejourno

Previous: Who's Getting Foreclosed on in Brooklyn Today? The Voice Finds Out
How Singing Paused Foreclosure Court in Brooklyn (VIDEO)
Lawyers and Activists Arrested in Brooklyn Courtroom While Stopping Foreclosures with Song (VIDEO)


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