SCHENECTADY So much for gentle handling.
The city once sold its tax liens to American Tax Funding on the promise it would work with property owners rather than simply seizing their houses for small amounts of unpaid taxes. But now, the gloves are off.
ATF filed 13 foreclosure actions since Sept. 1 after the city began its own foreclosures on properties that owe years of back taxes. ATF is going after even those residents who have been faithfully making payments through a plan with ATF.
ATF has the authority to foreclose on any liens it purchased from the city unless the property owner pays up.
At a glance
A look at some of the properties facing foreclosure:
• 919 Francis Ave.: $168 owed to ATF (plus $13,125 owed to city)
• 300 Altamont Ave.: $622 owed to ATF (plus $7,934 owed to city)
• 1122 Chrisler Ave.: $2,114 owed to ATF (plus $14,960 owed to city)
• 318 Elm St.: $2,488 owed to ATF (taxes are up to date)
• 1174 Sumner Ave.: $3,995 owed to ATF (plus $13,657 owed to city)
• 80 Hillcrest Ave.: $4,418 owed to ATF (plus $642 owed to city and $1,190 to New York state)
• 1314 Main St.: $4,781 owed to ATF (plus $5,789 owed to city)
• 1331 Grosvenor Square*: $4,916 owed to ATF (plus $15,669 owed to city)
• 234 McClellan St.*: $9,488 owed to ATF (plus $36,649 owed to the city and $115,723 in court judgments)
• 1806 Avenue B: $9,587 owed to ATF (plus $494 owed to city)
• 69 McClellan St.: $29,494 owed to ATF (taxes are up to date)
• 1002 Crane St.: $45,114 owed to ATF (plus $86,067 owed to city)
• 2234 Broadway: $49,918 owed to ATF (plus $33,400 owed to city)
In one case, the owner owes $168 to ATF. Hemlall Mangru, who owns 919 Francis Ave., has been making payments on a 2009 tax bill that he did not pay on time. He originally owed $1,675, but while making payments to ATF, he stopped paying his city taxes.
Many property owners have made the same decision, deciding to pay the collections company that kept calling and sending letters, rather than paying the city, which does not aggressively chase debtors. Now, Mangru is $13,125 behind on city and school taxes for 2011 and 2012, and yet his payments to ATF didn’t help. ATF is foreclosing anyway, for the $168 he hasn’t yet paid the company.
He’s not the only one. George Galvin, who owns 300 Altamont Ave., is being foreclosed upon for a $622 debt. He missed one quarter’s payment of city taxes in 2009, which ATF now holds the lien on. But ATF noted in court paperwork that he hadn’t paid on that debt at all.
Others have agreed to payment plans that ATF said they were continuing to pay on, but it’s foreclosing anyway. One of those owners is Yogeshwar Dabydeen, who owns 1122 Chrisler Ave., and had been making tiny payments to ATF on a $3,099 debt for the 2009 city taxes. After years of payments, including 21 percent interest, she brought that down to $2,114. ATF is now foreclosing.
ATF’s attorneys for New York state foreclosures did not return a call seeking comment.
In both Dabydeen and Galvin’s cases, the city stands to lose a great deal if ATF forecloses. Galvin owes $7,934 in city and school taxes for 2011 and 2012. Dabydeen’s financial situation has worsened recently, and she is now also $14,960 behind on city and school taxes for 2011 and 2012.
If ATF forecloses, the city might not recoup that money; the first entity to file for foreclosure generally prevails.
Corporation Counsel John Polster has been trying to negotiate an agreement with ATF in which the two would share in any revenue they received from foreclosures in which they were both owed money. No agreement has been reached yet, however.
Polster said he expected ATF to attempt to quickly file some foreclosures to stop the city from foreclosing on those properties.
Some of the owners who received recent ATF foreclosure notices are facing foreclosure for smaller amounts of money that they appear to have ignored for years. Shari Greenleaf, the former Schenectady school attorney, didn’t pay her 2003 and 2004 taxes, totaling $3,995. According to court records filed by ATF, she never made a single payment to the company before it filed to foreclose this month.
She did pay her city and school taxes in the years that followed, while ignoring ATF. But last year, she stopped paying altogether. She now owes $13,657 in city and school taxes for 2011 and 2012.
She could not be reached for comment.
There are also a few owners facing foreclosure who have been making full payments in recent years, but have not yet caught up on old bills. The City Council said it wants to give those owners a break, giving them more time to repay because they had shown good faith by paying their current bills.
But the council has no authority over ATF foreclosures. The council’s decision only affects the city’s foreclosures.
That won’t help owners like Basmattie Dhanraj, who owns 69 McClellan St. He didn’t pay his taxes from 2004 to 2008, but since then, his taxes are up to date. He owes ATF $29,494 for the back taxes, for which he is now facing foreclosure.
In another case, ATF appears to be foreclosing on a property a bank already took back from the owner. Trustco Bank is the listed owner of 318 Elm St., which had been owned by Stephanie Colgrove. She didn’t pay her 2009 taxes, totaling $2,488.
The bank took over Sept. 15, 2011, and paid the city to bring the taxes up to date. It’s not clear why ATF wasn’t paid, but ATF is now asking a court to give it the property because the 2009 bill is still outstanding.
In one case, it appears both the city and ATF have lost their money. Roopnarain Dukharan hasn’t paid taxes since 2003 on a rental property he owns. He racked up a $9,488 bill to ATF and $36,649 owed to the city, but those aren’t the only bills he isn’t paying. He also owes $115,723 in court judgments from 2009, which he also never paid.
And now he’s in jail, awaiting trial on charges he lured young people to his Stratford Road home and gave them drugs in exchange for working on his property over the summer. Police said he also gave a 14-year-old boy marijuana and alcohol for sex.
He faces charges of labor trafficking, criminal sex act with a minor and criminal sale of a controlled substance, all felonies. He also faces misdemeanor counts of unlawfully dealing with a child, sale of marijuana, criminal solicitation and endangering the welfare of a minor.