Crowds Gather Outside Home of Mary Ward, 82-Year-Old Bed-Stuy Resident Fighting Eviction


Update below: A decision about a marshall will come later today.

Our Steven Thrasher is currently on the scene outside the home of 82-year-old Bed-Stuy resident Mary Ward. Ward was scheduled to be evicted today and her home foreclosed on, but Thrasher reports that Assembly woman Annette Robinson “seems to have brokered an agreement to at least meet with the ‘purported owners’ of the home to keep Ms. Ward in her home.”

The backstory, in brief:

Ward took a loan out against her home for $10,000 in the ’90s from Delta Lending. She never got the money, and Delta was shut down for predatory lending — but despite that, the loan she never received was “sold and resold and repackaged” until it ended up with a foreclosure. Her lawyer says the whole thing was illegal, and the speculator reportedly can’t produce the deed.

A representative of Congressman Ed Towns is currently in the home along with Ward and Robinson, and about 200 people have gathered outside in a show of support. Thrasher reports that a meeting is scheduled to take place shortly between Common Law, lawyer Karen Gargamelli’s firm, Ward, and Robinson.

Frank Morales of Organizing for Occupation has told the crowd, “We know the NYPD is not interested in evicting an 82-year-old woman from her home. They’ve even said so,” but he’s asking the crowd to continue their show of solidarity until after the meeting.

At one point, Ward addressed the crowd, saying, “Don’t let nobody walk on you. My grandfather was a slave but I’m not a slave.”

We’ll update as the story continues to develop.

Update, 11:00: The meeting between Ward, her attorneys, Assembly woman Robinson, and Edna Johnson (a special assistant to Congressman Ed Towns) should be underway shortly in Robinson’s office. What the outcome is unclear, as is if the parties involved are angling for the same thing.

“We have our demands” said Gargamelli, the main lawyer acting as a ringmaster on Ward’s stoop. Among them are that Ward be able to stay in her home for the rest of her life, and that the property be given to a “community trust” after she is gone. They are also asking that the Attorney General’s office investigate “the fraudulent sale of Ms. Ward’s home.”

A bit more back story: Ward took out a $10,000 loan in the 90s to help with the adoption of her great granddaughter. According to Gargamelli, “she never got a lick of that money,” and yet the loan (“fraudulently illegal”) was repackaged and bundled until it got lost, over the course of 15 years, into a Kafka maze of endless paperwork. It’s now in the hands of a company called 768 Dean Inc., which was attempting to evict Ward today and will be at the meeting.

Last night, Gargamelli says, the NYPD asked them not to take an eviction action when the marshall arrived. (Today, the cops on hand were clearly not upset with the demonstrators.)

Earlier this morning, Gargamelli told the crowd (which kept increasing in size and was getting numerous passing cars, trucks and MTA busses to honk their horns raucously) that the marshall was set to come between 8 and 9:00 AM. “But,” she cautioned, ” it would not be the first fucked up thing if he didn’t come on time.”

But by 10:00 AM, she was reporting that the marshall is not supposed to come today, or tomorrow. Still, she and others asked the crowd to stick around and keep up the chanting and honking until after the meeting. They were skeptical that if the crowd dispersed, the marshalls would swoop in and evict Ward.

There’s video of the scene outside of Ward’s home shortly before the elected officials showed up. There were more protestors across the street.

One fascinating bit of activist strategy we learned about: by live streaming video of the action today, the Take Back the Land folks could watch their internet traffic reports and see exactly which city agencies were watching events unfold.

Update, 3:50 PM: Photojournalist Michael Premo of Housing is a Human Right (our sometime collaborator) tells us that the meeting between Ward, her attorney, and a landlord named Shameem Chowdhury of 768 Dean Inc. has concluded. Via her attorneys from Common Law and the group Organizing for Occupation, Ward laid out a number of conditions. Chowdury reportedly will make a decision by tonight about whether or not to call back the marshall, and will make a decision about the other conditions on Monday.

Premo tells us O40 is planning to make a human chain around Ward’s home again on Monday.

The actual bankruptcy filing on behalf of Chowdury/768 Dean Inc. against Ward is dated January 12, 2010.