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State will investigate rampant deed fraud in Brooklyn

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Plus, the latest project to join the LIC development boom—and more intel in today’s New York Minute news roundup

A row of brownstone townhouses on a sleepy, tree-lined block in Brooklyn.
A row of historic brownstone townhouses in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Raimund Koch/Getty Images

Gov. Cuomo will launch crackdown on Brooklyn deed fraud

The state’s Department of Financial Services will investigate deed fraud in Brooklyn at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo after a heart-wrenching report from The New York Times shined a light on the deceptive practice. Cuomo also directed the department’s Foreclosure Relief Unit to assist homeowners who believe they may have been a victim of deed fraud or other schemes relating to the sale of their property.

“The illegal and deceptive actions to rob New Yorkers of their homes reported [Monday] are disgraceful and must be stopped,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Anyone found guilty of this repugnant behavior will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

The practice, stealing the title of a home, has become rampant in gentrifying sections of Brooklyn. Communities of color in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights—both coveted for their stock of brownstone townhouses—have become frequent targets of the crime that can involve coercing a homeowner into signing forms that transfer ownership of their building. Property owners in Prospect Heights, Brownsville, and East New York have also been victimized.

Homeowners who believe they may have been a victim of deed fraud should call the state’s Foreclosure Relief Hotline at 1-800-342-3736, or visit the Department of Financial Service’s website for more information or to file a complaint.

In other news...

  • Developer Fisher Brothers is hopping on the Long Island City development boom bandwagon with plans to bring a 37-story, 240-unit project to the Queens neighborhood.
  • These new luxury buildings are channeling New York City’s Art Deco past.
  • WeWork can no longer afford a move to the landmarked former Lord & Taylor building on Fifth Avenue. The pricey property has become an albatross for the troubled company.
  • The state’s Court of Appeals cleared the way for a class action lawsuit against a Harlem landlord accused of wrongfully inflating rents on stabilized apartments.
  • More rusty junk is falling from the sky courtesy of the elevated 7 train tracks in Queens.
  • Washington D.C.’s Newseum is folding. It’s collection contains part of the antenna from the North Tower of the World Trade Center, but instead of sending the artifact to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum it’s being put in storage.
  • And, finally, let this truly horrifying building proposal—that earned city approval in 1986—remind you of the importance of historic preservation and zoning regulations:
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This 1986 Upper West Side building proposal reminds us of the importance of historic preservation and zoning regulations. The above image is not a joke, and was actually approved by NYC Department of Buildings. In 1986 the owner of the historic 520 West End Ave at the corner of 85th Street proposed constructing a 10-story glass-and-steel apartment building above his four-story Romanesque townhouse. The Department of Buildings approved the plans for the new building, which would sit on a platform supported by four columns erected around the existing building. Built-in 1892, the red brick and stone 520 West End Avenue was Designed by architect Clarence True, who started out as a draftsman in the office of Richard Upjohn for cotton broker John B. Leech. With steep gables and gothic detailing, the residence was Knicknamed "The Castle" by locals. The covered the controversy, noting local opposition, calling it ''a desecration and a cannibalization of a true treasure:” “”He could restore this very handsome building, but what he is doing is coming in and installing truly an atrocity in terms of architecture. It's like putting this modern dunce cap on top of this very elegant, late-19th-century building.'' [The owner] Mr. Stux said, however, that ''I am a West Sider myself and I am interested in making the neighborhood look good.'' ''I don't think this is a landmark-quality building,'' he said. ''Age doesn't make a building a landmark. This is just an old building.''" Following increased protest from neighbors and local preservationists the building was eventually landmarked, ending any chance of building the addition. ➖ Visit our website blog to read articles covering the controversy and the 1987 Landmarks Designation Report.

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