If you’re like me you might live next to a building that was foreclosed on and is now inhabited by local vagrants.
You might’ve been sitting at home minding your own business on a recent Sunday night when 16 policemen showed up at your door demanding access to the backyard to track down said vagrants.
Around the time when Obama was telling the nation that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, my neighbors heard someone running through their yard and called the police. When they arrived, the cops found a loaded gun inside the building and that’s when even more cops showed up.
On my stretch of historically landmarked brownstones, a number of homes built between 1900 and 1910 were used in mortgage scams, at times for upwards of $850,000. Many of these brownstones have turned over and undergone extensive renovations – like mine, owned by my landlord Jon – and now only a few sit rotting and vacant. This brownstone is one of them.
Jon and I decided to poke around inside the building late last year when we suspected a leak might be emanating from the property (our buildings are attached). The front door was chained shut, so we went around through the garden apartment into the backyard. Jon heaved himself up to attempt a window entrance. I suggested the door might be open. It was.
We opened it and entered through a back storage area, through a dingy basement and upstairs into the parlor room. Paint sheets hung from the ceiling; mail, clothes, miscellaneous belongings all sat in piles strewn across the floor; the entire building had extensive water damage. Drug paraphernalia sat on the rotted kitchen counter.
Though the building has “great bones” as Jon repeated, it also had someone sleeping in a third floor bedroom. He didn’t seem to notice us much.
Jon told me he tried to buy the building but when it came to tracking down the owner, he ran into some problems. It seems everything was going smoothly with the property until its owner Yolanda Lotson was foreclosed on in 2004. According to public records Ms. Lotson bought the building in 1998 and had an amateur radio license registered in Brooklyn with the call sign KB2TDH. My guess is the patio furniture that sits overgrown in the backyard belonged to her.
In November 2004 she sold the building for $420,000 to A.W. Development Corp. under pressure of a lien, and from there the building went downhill. A.W. flipped it nine months later for $720,000 to Leroy Frederick, who then also incurred a foreclosure and an unsafe building designation a year later and sold it to Oluwole Adebowale for an astonishing $850,000 with only a 10% down payment. His is the last name listed on the property records. With the building deteriorating each year, its price tag continued to rise.
According to Jon’s research Amtrust Bank, based in Ohio, financed the deal. In July 2009 a judgment was issued in favor of the bank in the amount of $1,113,912.61, plus interest. They now control the property.
“I have made many attempts at contacting someone in charge at Amtrust,” Jon emailed me after our adventure. “I’ve been passed from the mortgage division to the foreclosure department, ignored on hold for extended periods. Nobody wants to take responsibility. After much persistence, I was given the name and number of a supervisor in the Loan and Servicing department. However, he has not returned my calls.”
The bank’s attitude seems to be that it’s more convenient to keep the property vacant and deteriorating instead of turning it over to a buyer. For now though, it means a stash house for loaded weapons, a crash pad for drug addicts and homeless people and a safe haven for unruly teenagers, whose graffiti covers the walls.
After departing, the cops left behind a man in an unmarked car, but since his departure my neighbor went ahead and drilled a big chunk of plywood to the front door frame.
“If given the opportunity, I would gladly purchase and restore the building. For the right price, of course,” added Jon.
Watch the slideshow of pictures below.