Today’s news:

Life preserver for drowning homeowners

Councilman Vincent Gentile, who represents Brooklyn neighborhoods that are home to more seniors than nearly any other New York City neighborhood, has signed on as a key supporter of a bill, which will protect their homes from the auction block due to delinquent water bills.

Hundreds of homeowners in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach are struggling to pay delinquent water bills, and many of those homeowners are senior citizens on fixed incomes. Current law allows New York City to place a lien on properties after owners have owed at least $1,000 in unpaid water bills for just one year; the new legislation, which Gentile signed onto as a primary co-sponsor, will extend the period of delinquency required from one to three years.

“Our community is home to more seniors than almost anywhere in the city, and in this tough economy they’re struggling to make ends meet on fixed incomes,” Gentile said. “In too many cases, the homes they’ve raised children and grandchildren in are on the auction block because of delinquent water bills. This bill will force the city to treat seniors with due dignity and consideration.”

The bill, introduced by Councilman Al Vann, also sets forth the following changes:

(1) Exempts class one, two, and three-family homeowners that receive the Enhance STAR Exemption from water only lien sales and subsequent tax liens;

(2) Requires DEP, after consultation with the Department of Finance (DOF), to use best efforts to search and identify SCHE, DHE, Property Tax Circuit Breaker, and Enhanced STAR eligible seniors that are on the lien sale list, and allow the Commissioner of DEP to remove them from lien list;

(3) Requires DEP to identify and inform DOF of any Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption, Disabled Homeowners’ Exemption, Property Tax Circuit Breaker, and/or Enhanced STAR eligible seniors that are placed on the lien sale list;

(4) Requires quarterly mailing with lien sale process information and exemption information, with description and relevant contact information; and

(5) Extends the time when homeowners first receive notice of the sale to the date of the sale from 90 days to 120 days.

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