BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Neighborhood homeowners are coming together this March to raise awareness about deed theft and property fraud in the community.
The Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a civic group aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood, is hosting the event “We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper” to help educate locals on an issue many say is rampant in the area.
“This is happening way too often and way too easily,” said Brownstoners’ president Lynette Lewis-Rogers.
“It’s frustrating, but we’re hearing from different sources that it is very, very widespread, particularly throughout Bed-Stuy."
“We know they’re in demand, our beautiful brownstones. They’re very desirable, and if you’re not willing to sell, the next thing is for people to be under-handed about it.”
Many affected residents lose their homes after reaching out for assistance, Lewis-Rogers added.
Those facing foreclosure or looking to refinance their property sometimes come across scammers and later find out they signed over the deed to their homes, according to experts.
The March 19 panel was created out of a concern to help residents pass down their properties through generations, Lewis-Rogers said.
It follows a January event from the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant in which they discussed the same topic with elected officials and representatives from the State Attorney General, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Real Estate Board.
Councilmember Robert Cornegy, who has been working with community partners to implement safeguards at a local level, said he hoped conversations bringing the topic to light “mean that families and neighbors will be vigilant against manipulative thieves making self-interested offers of fake assistance.”
“A single hard-earned home lost to fraud is a tragedy for the family involved and it makes the entire community feel vulnerable,” Cornegy said, adding that residents can sign up for automatic notification of activity concerning their deed from the Department of Finance.
Organizations like Bridge Street Development Corporation offer free workshops and assistance to homeowners who feel that they may be targets of deed theft and property fraud.
Through a series called “Keeping It In the Family,” the group brings lawyers and experts to help residents with more information, according to Masanna Johnson, homeownership program manager at Bridge Street.
“In the past year it's been a lot of conversations with this, with clients calling in,” she said.
“Our focus is on trying to educate constituents: be careful what you’re signing, if you don’t understand, don’t sign it at all…We’re trying to combat it before it becomes a bigger issue.”
The Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s “We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper” event will take place at 10 a.m. on March 19 in the community room of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, 1368 Fulton St.
For more information, visit their website here.