What Went Down at Last Week’s Foreclosure Auctions


​The Voice is starting a new feature several times a week. As foreclosures continue unabated across the nation, the Voice will be profiling the foreclosures that happen every week right here in the five boroughs. We’ll be looking closely at the properties facing foreclosure, the public auctions where those buildings are sold to the highest bidder, and the individuals facing eviction in the process.

As reported last week, a third generation home-dweller named Debbie Hailey was frantically trying to stop her home from being auctioned off at a foreclosure sale at the King’s County Supreme Court–which takes place every Thursday at 3pm–and she succeeded.

Hailey’s three-story property, located on 876 Greene Avenue, was not one of the three properties sold last Thursday.

Hailey told Runnin’ Scared her bankruptcy procedure stopped her home from being auctioned off, but she’s going to have to sell it herself to pay off the debt, which she said her late mother was tricked into receiving.

“I’m still going to have to sell it and figure out where I’m going to live,” she said. “So it’s not like it’s a happy ending and all that. But it’s better than being sold off last week.”

The other three properties, 1172 Putnam Avenue, 619 Hancock Street, and 1658 52nd Street, were sold in rapid succession for prices ranging from $300,000 to $450,000.

We sat in on the sale, which was attended by about 25 men, made up of several groups from vastly different backgrounds. There was a group of Jewish men in their early 30s, a trio of older hispanic men, a few individuals, and a Vietnamese couple.

Opening bids for these properties start at just $1,000, with identical minimum bidding increments. But the action is fast and furious, with men raising their arms every few seconds, and soon the figure reaches six figures–of course, the minimum bidding increments rises exponentially, topping off at $50,000 per hand-raise.

Of all the potential buyers we approached, only the Vietnamese couple, Mr and Mrs Tran, were willing to talk on record–likely because they were the only ones in the room who are not investors.

“We just wanted to buy a house below market value,” said Mr Tran, a 45-year-old chef at a Chinese restaurant in Flushing who lost out on his bid.

It’s the couple’s first time at the sale, having heard about it from friends.

Not everyone in the room was there to buy though. One of the attendees who sat quietly in the back of the court room was an agent for New York Life insurance by the name of Lester Philips, who said he attends these sales to “survey the scene”.

Philips was there last October when the singing protesters interrupted the sales, and he said the court have upped the control since.

“We can’t even bring cell phones in the sales now, because of what happened last time,” he said.

At the Queen’s Court sale the next day, three properties–including a law office–were sold to investors for $350,000. We called the law office, located at 220-29 Jamica Avenue. The receptionist was initially open to talk: She said they are merely renters of the building, and had no idea about the sale, but further requests to speak to her boss, and the lordlord, were ignored.

Nonetheless, foreclosure sales happen every week, and we’ll be at the Brooklyn sale tomorrow to find the latest batch of stories.