Assemblymember Jim Brennan Assemblymember
Jim
Brennan

Reports to
the People

Summer 2008
OFFICES:
416 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-788-7221
1414 Cortelyou Road
Brooklyn, NY 11226
718-940-0641
Room 842 LOB
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-5377
E-mail: brennanj@assembly.state.ny.us

Foreclosure Protection Passes

Last December my office introduced a bill in the Legislature to provide for a one-year moratorium on mortgage foreclosures in New York State. The purpose of this bill was to impose a one-year delay between the moment where the lender has proven entitlement to foreclosure and the actual court order which transfers title and enables foreclosure to proceed. The intention was to provide an incentive to both the homeowner and the bank to renegotiate the loan so that the homeowner can afford to stay in the house.

Church Avenue
Station Elevator
photo
The MTA has completed an elevator for the Church Avenue “F” train. My office designated $500,000 for safety strips along the platform in 2004, with a promise from the MTA to speed the installation of the elevator. Joining me at the ribbon cutting are Councilmember deBlasio, Borough President Markowitz, MTA President Sander and local residents.

The Assembly overwhelmingly passed my bill in early May, along with several other pieces of legislation designed to prevent this crisis from recurring. However, the Senate was unwilling to follow our lead due to pressure from the banking industry, which claimed that the laws in New York State were strict enough. After much negotiation, the Governor called a press conference on June 19 to announce a compromise (see picture, p.2), and the final bill was passed by both houses of the Legislature near the end of the session. The New York Times printed an analysis of the compromise in which they quoted me: “I actually believe that the pressure for this moratorium led the Senate and the banking industry to compromise.”

The final result, while not allowing for a moratorium, modifies the foreclosure process. It provides for a 90-day pre-foreclosure notice to alert borrowers that they are in default and advises them of assistance that is available. It provides for a mandatory settlement conference to bring the borrower and lender together to attempt to reach a satisfactory settlement so that homeowners can stay in their homes.

Much of this problem originated from the practices used by the sub-prime lending market. These include lenders who did not realistically vet a borrower’s ability to repay the loan or misrepresented the monthly payments by not explaining how high they could go after the “teaser” rate expired. These practices will no longer be allowed. New rules provide that:

  • a subprime mortgage lender must identify limitations and prohibited practices for subprime home loans, must consider borrowers’ ability to repay the loan, and provides remedies to borrowers who have been subjected to violations;

  • sets standards and limits for home loans by requiring brokers to act in the best interests of the borrower and prohibits lenders or brokers from improperly influencing the outcome of a real estate appraisal;

  • requires registration of all businesses servicing mortgage loans, requires that the mortgage loan servicer who initiates a foreclosure is the owner and holder of the mortgage, and authorizes the Superintendent of Banks to impose fines and penalties;

  • establishes the crime of residential mortgage fraud and establishes penalties for residential mortgage fraud ranging from a class A misdemeanor to class B felony; and

  • cracks down on “rescue scams” by lenders who represent themselves as being able to rescue people at the last minute who are facing foreclosure.




Legislative News

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
As energy becomes more expensive we all look for ways to save money while polluting less. As a member of the Real Property Tax Committee and the Codes Committee, I am proud to have helped to push through two new laws that promote greener sources of energy.

The first is a one-year green roof tax abatement (A.11226) which will encourage construction and maintenance of green roofs in New York City. Green roofs consist of vegetation planted on a roof top and provide multiple environmental benefits, including a reduction in rainwater entering the sewers, absorption of air pollution, and stabilization of the building’s temperature thereby reducing the need for energy to heat or cool its interior.

The second bill encourages investment in solar generating systems (A.11202) by allowing a four-year real property tax abatement for construction of a solar system. Increased use of solar energy reduces dependence on fossil fuels, which in turn reduces pollution.

A third bill allows for net metering for non-residential customers (A.11146). Currently, residences that generate more electricity from solar systems than they use may sell the excess back to their utility, saving money and allowing for this clean electricity to be used where it is needed. This bill will permit non-residential customers to do the same, encouraging businesses to make an investment in this clean energy technology.

The Brownfield Cleanup Program was established in 2003 to enhance private-sector cleanup of property that is potentially contaminated by hazardous waste or petroleum. While the original program was a good start, it fell short of the anticipated cleanup and redevelopment. The legislation we passed this session (A.11768) is aimed at further encouraging the cleanup and development of industrial sites that have been unused for decades. It will encourage more thorough cleanup of these properties by increasing tax incentives for certain projects, making the process more economically feasible.

“SAFE HARBOR” FOR EXPLOITED YOUTH
It has been reported that the number of youth victimized by the sex trade is on the rise and that youth as young as eleven and twelve years old are becoming involved. The overwhelming majority of these sexually exploited youth have a history of psychological, physical or sexual abuse as younger children. Currently, the state’s response to this issue has been to prosecute sexually-exploited youth as criminals. Recently passed legislation (A.5258c) would instead provide essential services, including diversion, crisis intervention, counseling, and emergency and long-term housing services in order to assist these young people in turning their lives around.


photo This press conference announced the agreement for a bill to assist those homeowners facing foreclosure. Pictured, left to right, are Senators Padavan, Bruno, Farley, Governor Paterson, Assemblymember Towns, Speaker Silver, and Assemblymembers Lopez, Weinstein, Brennan, Jaffee and Lancman .

photo Over 500 people attended a volunteer fair in Park Slope in May sponsored by my office along with Assemblywoman Millman (right) and several other organizations. Pictured with us are representatives of three of those sponsors – Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6; Lyn Hill from Methodist Hospital; Nancy Rubinger from Congregation Beth Elohim. More than 70 local and regional community not-for-profit groups provided information to the community about volunteer opportunities and are listed in a booklet that is available from my office or on my page on the Assembly’s website. (click here for the booklet)

HEALTH
The Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) has long been seen to be so protective of doctors that it is ineffective in its discipline of the profession. At the close of this session, a bill (A.11136a) was passed to improve patient safety in three important ways: First, it seeks to ensure that appropriate steps are taken against physicians who engage in professional misconduct, while ensuring appropriate due process for physicians. Second, the bill helps patients become better informed consumers about the quality of the physicians who treat them by making information about particular professional misconduct proceedings available to them. Third, the bill will help to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases by improving infection control education and practices.

photo Jim Brennan has helped a new organization GALLOP to provide therapeutic riding programs for persons with disabilities at the Kensington Stables.

CONSUMER PROTECTION
Identity theft is an invasive, personal crime that continues to grow. This year the Legislature passed a bill (Chapter 279) that will restrict an employer’s access to an employee’s personal information by prohibiting Social Security Numbers on ID badges, ID cards, time cards, or in files with open access. The bill also bans the use of “skimmer” devices which can obtain personal identifying information from credit cards under circumstances where there is intent to use the device to commit identity theft.

The workplace is all too often a prime target for identity thieves. This bill applies confidentiality protections in order to prevent the intentional distribution of Social Security Numbers to the public. By providing these safeguards and restricting employer use of employees’ information, we are protecting individuals from the misuse of their personal information.

In addition, identity theft victims will be able to seek assistance from the Consumer Protection Board’s Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program. It will assist victims in repairing their financial and credit history.


TIPS FOR USING CREDIT CARDS RESPONSIBLY

Understand Your Card Terms
The best way to avoid many of the fees charged by your credit card is to understand your terms. The New York State Banking Department publishes a quarterly credit card survey where you can compare rates and terms. View the survey at http://www.cardratings.com/Survey_2008_April.pdf.

Don't Be a “Revolver”
Revolvers carry credit card balances month-to-month, generating finance charges. If you pay off your card each month, you effectively get a free zero-interest loan during your payment grace period.

Pay More than the Minimum
It’s not always possible to pay off your balance each month, but paying even $20 over the minimum can save thousands of dollars of interest in the long run.

Just Say “NO” to Cash Advances
Credit card cash advances not only have higher interest rates than purchases, but also require you to pay a cash advance fee. These higher rates and fees translate into annual interest rates well above 144% – so just say “no”.

Pay on Time
Late fees can cost you as much as $39 per incident. To avoid late fees, make a habit of making at least the minimum payment as soon as the bill arrives. You can always send a larger payment later.

Stay Within Your Credit Limit
If you exceed your credit limit, over-the-limit fees can be assessed every month until your balance is brought under the limit. The average over-the-limit fee is $29, so it’s easy to see how quickly these fees can significantly increase your balance.

Monitor Your Interest Rate (APR)
Many credit card terms include a provision that allows card issuers to raise your interest rates based on how you handle your other credit accounts. Under “universal default,” the APR on your credit card can increase if you pay late or fail to pay a completely unrelated bill such as a utility or car payment.


Back