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Kearns, housing activists make first stop in "shame campaign"

Residents of one Buffalo neighborhood can now see a sign planted in front of a house that has been sitting idly since a bank began foreclosure proceedings in 2010. That sign represents the first of many that activists plan to place in a "shame campaign" against the banks that hold foreclosed houses in limbo.

The sign was posted outside the long-vacant house at 20 Sidway in the city's Old First Ward. The owner of the property died in 2007. Foreclosure proceedings did not begin until 2010 and have remained incomplete since. 

State Assemblyman Michael Kearns, Buffalo Common Councilmember David Franczyk and community activists say that's unacceptable and are pushing on banks that hold an estimated hundreds of Buffalo homes idle to act.

"We're tired of the banks being and creating a nuisance in our community," said Kearns. "When times were good, when profits were high, times were rolling, they were happy. But now they have a responsibility to be a good neighbor."

Activists say as banks sit on properties, they're not necessarily maintained regularly and adequately. They pointed to garbage and weeds on the property at 20 Sidway, while pointing to well-kept homes just a few doors down. Those neighboring properties, speakers told reporters Friday morning, lose value as time passes and the banks do not act.

"What bankers and senior vice presidents are saying is they're making financial decisions. They're not thinking about neighbors that live next door," said Matthew Fisher, a community development coordinator for the Old First Ward Community Association. "They're deciding to hold on to this house. This house has been in the process for five years."

Kearns has written to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, asking him to pull New York State's business associations with any banks that stall foreclosure proceedings for extended periods of time, citing concerns including falling values of adjacent properties.

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