Last night, Reverend Ed Cross came to the Common Council Finance Committee with several of the members of his Endless Love Temple to ask for help in their predicament: the building where they worship, which they have rented for the past eight years, has been seized by the City for nonpayment of property taxes, and the church is locked out of the building.
Once the foreclosure occurred, the owner of the building had thirty days to pay all the back taxes, penalties, and fees, which in this case amount to around $35,000, and redeem the property. This was not done. Now, it seems, Endless Love Temple is hoping the City will allow them to enter into a payment agreement to pay the taxes and fees and take ownership of the building. Cross made the appeal at the informal Common Council meeting last Monday and was encouraged by Council president Claudia DeStefano to make his case at the Finance Committee, which he did with no different outcome. The window of opportunity for redeeming the property has passed. The church's choices, it seems, are bidding on the property in an auction, where the back taxes due will be the minimum bid, or buying it from the City for fair market value.
A similar but different foreclosure story came before the Council at its regular meeting, when they were asked to vote on a resolution authorizing the redemption of 424 Union Street.
In this case, the owner had paid the back taxes, penalties, and fees, with a certified check, within the thirty-day period, as prescribed by the law, to redeem the property, but the tenant, Donna Graziano, who has lived in the house for thirty years, was at the Council meeting to tell her story and seek the Council's help. She alleged that the money to redeem the property, although paid to the City by the building owner, had come from Eric Galloway or the Galvan Foundation, and the owner had agreed to sell the house to Galvan once it was redeemed. (Galvan already owns another house farther up the block, 438 Union, acquired in 2012 and vacant.) She told the Council that the owner had rejected an offer on the house made by a neighbor, who would have allowed her to stay on as tenant. She explained to the Council that she was in ill health and other members of her household had serious health problems. She had no car, and she needed to stay in Hudson where she was close to her doctors and the hospital. When the City seized the property, she had received an eviction notice, giving her 30 days to vacate the property. The mayor had extended that time to 90 days. Graziano was appealing to the Council to let her stay in the house, "whoever takes it over." "I paid my rent for thirty years," she told the Council, "but the owner did not pay the taxes."
Andy Howard, counsel to the Council, reminded the aldermen, who were sympathetic to Graziano's plight, that the owner had the statutory right to redeem the property and "how the owner gets that money is not your role to investigate." He also explained to the Council that "the level at which the City owns [the property] is subject to the right redemption" and advised the aldermen that there would probably be a lawsuit against the City if they did not act on the resolution.
Reluctantly, the aldermen voted. Before voting yes, DeStefano said, "We have no choice." Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) said, "I'm confused; I want to see that lady stay there," but then voted yes. Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward) told the woman, "I hope the City can help you," before voting yes. Rick Rector (First Ward) said, "It may be time to talk to the potential new owner" (although he didn't indicate who he thought should talk to the potential new owner), before voting yes. The resolution authorizing the redemption was approved without the votes of the Third Ward aldermen (the house is located in the Third Ward): John Friedman abstained; Henry Haddad voted no.
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