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Defenders of Mary Ward, 82-Year-Old Facing Eviction, Join with Occupy Wall Street to Fight Foreclosures

The group Organizing for Occupation will bring Occupy Wall Street to Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday, in a joint action from the two groups at Brooklyn Supreme Cout that will call for an end to foreclosure auctions.

"O4O" first made news in August, when their members surrounded the home of 82-year-old Bed-Stuy resident Mary Ward in an "eviction blockade." Staffing her home with volunteers willing to get arrested, they kept marshalls at bay from removing Ward from her home of four decades. Stunningly, two months later, Ms. Ward is still there. In that time local representatives, and even Attorney General Eric Schniederman's office, have gotten involved. This week, negotiations are continuing about possible ways to keep Ms. Ward in her home.

If successful, it stands to be a significant win for O4O, and an unusual end to a foreclosure story. Properties are foreclosed on and sold at auction every week in the five boroughs, and none in recent memory has had any kind of the international news coverage as Ms. Ward's.

We wondered when O4O's efforts (which predated Occupy Wall Street) would join up with what's happening in Zuccotti Park. It turns out Occupy Wall Street reached out early on to O4O, and though conversations have been happening between the leaderless former movement and the more structured latter one, Thursday's protest will be the first joint event planned between the two.

Both groups are calling for protestors to meet at Brooklyn Supreme Court, to protest the foreclosure auctions that will be happening there. According to the press release:

"Wall Street is the cause of this systematic displacement of New Yorkers. Wall StreetBankers turned mortgages into 'securitized instruments' and sold them for profit. Their greed demanded the creation of mortgage-backed securities. Without blinking, they used predatory loans to lure homeowners into mortgages with impossible--and unseen--interest rates."

They are hoping to stop the foreclosures of three Brooklyn addresses on Glen Street, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue, which are scheduled to be sold at auction, just like Ms. Ward's home was.

However, there is something very different about the fight they are waging this time: they don't know who is currently living in these homes, or who the current owners are. O4O was able to wage a successful media campaign by showing how an 82-year-old woman received a loan so predatory, the broker reportedly lost his license and the lender was put out of business. Nobody really wants to be seen throwing a church going great-grandmother out on the street. The absurdity of her story was particularly obvious because Ward was being evicted for defaulting on a loan she never received, sixteen years after the fact. The bad loan ended up getting repackaged and resold so many times that by the time a bank sold it at auction to the current landlord, it was unclear who held the actual deed to the house.

But at Thursday's auction, the unknown narrative is much less clear. Karen Gargamelli of the firm Common Law (which represents Ms. Ward*) and Michael Strom, a key figure from Organizing for Occupation who has linked up with Occupy Wall Street -- explain that it was important to start standing up against foreclosures of all homes, regardless of who is inhabiting them. Their demonstration in Brooklyn will be followed up by similar ones in the Bronx and Queens.

Neither O4O nor Occupy Wall Street have any idea whose home they'll be defending tomorrow, or how the properties ended up in foreclosure. They don't know if the occupants of these buildings are owners who know how underwater they are, or tenants who might not have a clue that the building they are renting is about to be sold at auction.

Either way, none of them have any idea that their building is the next satellite battleground of Occupy Wall Street, and that the same people who have successfully kept Ms. Ward in her home for two months past her planned eviction now plan to come to their aid.

We want to know who these people are, so the Voice will be paying a visit to these homes on Glen Street, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we're also planning to check out the first official Occupy Wall Street function in Brooklyn, tomorrow. Here are the details from the press release we got from Gargamelli.

O4O/OWS Press Release -- Brooklyn Supreme Court protest

(*Correction: Gargamelli writes that Common Law "never formerly represented Ms. Ward. Now, she is represented by Bed-Stuy Legal Services at the negotiation table.")

sthrasher@villagevoice.com | @steven_thrasher For more Voice coverage of Occupy Wall Street and other New York news, go to Runnin' Scared.

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Mary Ward, 82-Year-Old Facing Eviction, to Meet with Attorney General's Office Mary Ward, 82-Year-Old Facing Eviction, Still in Her Home (and on Russian TV) Crowds Gather Outside Home of Mary Ward, 82-Year-Old Bed-Stuy Resident Fighting Eviction


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