2008-09-19 / Columnists

Smith Speaks From Albany

Home On The Pier? Once A Dream, Now A Reality
Commentary From The Desk Of Senator Malcolm Smith Minority Leader New York State Senate

MALCOM SMITH MALCOM SMITH Few things in life are as satisfying as buying a home. Along with marriage and the birth of a child, it is considered a milestone in one's life. And for good reason. A home is something tangible, something that is completely yours. For some, it is a chance to acquire a comfortable place to build memories that will last a lifetime.

Earlier this year, the Senate Democratic Conference launched "Operation Protect Your Home," a statewide program designed to help homeowners stave off foreclosure due to the collapse of the subprime mortgage industry. To date, more than 1,500 people have taken advantage of our workshops, where they met with bank representatives to find ways to prevent unnecessary foreclosures.

But our program was also designed to help more New Yorkers purchase their own homes, and those efforts received an encouraging boost recently. As you may have heard, Governor David Paterson signed into law a bill I sponsored, along with Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Far Rockaway), to allow New York City to sell the Beach 84 Street Pier to the residents living there.

This neighborhood is rich in history, but poor in upkeep. For decades, residents who wanted to repair their own homes - or the pier itself - could not do so because the property was owned by the City, which, through indecision, let the property decline.

Now, with the passage of this legislation, people who live on the pier will be offered the chance to buy their home at

a rate established by an independent appraiser. More importantly, they will have the legal right to renovate these classic bungalows as they see fit. The benefits of homeownership are twofold: First, the homeowner has property that can be used to build equity for the future. Second, homeownership leads

to more stable communities. Indeed, property values of many neighborhoods all over America have plummeted due to the many foreclosed homes that dot the landscape. A home is also an investment in making a neighborhood better. It's a commitment to a shared purpose of creating a safer, more diverse area where residents share common values and common goals.

The 17 homes that make up the Beach 84 Street Pier have sentimental meaning to those who live there. It is where immigrants fresh from the Old World came to put down roots and pursue the American dream. And in time, these houses became homes for their descendants.

Even as their neighborhood declined, even though they could have left and moved to better neighborhoods, these families remained because of the strong ties and vivid memories they all share. And they saw something in the pier that was once great and could be great again.

Now, they'll have the chance to shape the future of their neighborhood with their own hands. And I am proud to be a part of the process that will make it happen.

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