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Churchgoers unite to protest bank foreclosure

One church member’s battle to save her home from foreclosure became an entire crowd’s fight last Thursday, May 20. The Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition, along with members of New Day Church, met at noon in front of the Bank of America at 248 E. Fordham Road.

The idea for the protest began when Edda Lopez of New Day shared her dilemma with the church congregation: Bank of America had just told her they were going to foreclose her home at Devoe Terrace. But they notified her only one month in advance.

It all started nearly six months ago when Lopez began having difficulty making her mortgage payments. She had fallen ill and also lost her husband, and it seemed like her life was breaking down at once. Wilshire Credit Corporation, whichheld her mortgage, offered her what is known as a loan modification of her mortgage — she would get to pay a reduced rate, almost $1,000 less per month than in the past, for a period of three months. If Lopez made timely payments, Wilshire told her, they would consider modifying the loan to the lower rate for good.

“I said yes, of course! I signed an official agreement and everything,” said Lopez. Sure enough, after three months, Wilshire sent her a letter saying that her mortgage had been modified and would stay at the low rate for the next five years. “I was happy, but that kind of scared me,” admitted Lopez. “I said, only five years? I thought it was going to be forever!”

It didn’t even last the five months. She then received a letter that her new payment would be $3500 a month — back up to the original high rate she had been paying before the modification. The letter was from Bank of America because, as Lopez learned, they had acquired her loan from Wilshire.

Lopez asked a friend who works in real estate to call the bank and ask some questions. When he did, they told him that the house was in foreclosure because Lopez had not been paying her loan. They said the house would be sold off on May 24.

“To think, if I hadn’t asked my friend to call them, I may have never even known,” said Lopez. “It would have been a done deal. I never got a letter telling me I was in danger of losing my home, nothing.”

Lopez went straight to her community at the church and they organized a protest.

“We fully recognize that Edda is one of tens of thousands of people in the Bronx who are being screwed by the banks one way or another,” said Ivan Braun of the NWBCCC. “She is a member of our community, so we’re going to stick by her.”

On the morning of the proposed rally, NWBCCC received a call from someone representing the CEO at Bank of America. He asked them to call off the protest. The bank postponed the foreclosure but otherwise did not budge on their foreclosure plans. NWBCCC and New Day members went ahead with the rally. A hundred people came out: 27 members of New Day Church, an equal number of people directly associated with NWBCC, and a number of other locals from the community.

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop,” they chanted, holding signs and making speeches directly outside the bank’s windows.

Following the rally, Braun reflected: “I think it was very successful. In spite of what the guy from the CEO’s office said, they’re going real slow. They still aren’t recognizing her situation. So we saw this as a necessary step. We’re still hopeful that they will see the light.”

Bank of America insists Lopez’ load was never “modified” in the first place. Unfortunately, she cannot find the letter that outlined her modification, though she says that her son, for one, witnessed it. She showed him the letter when she first received it.

Bank of America has now offered Lopez the chance to re-apply for the modification she had already received from Wilshire.

“They want me to do it all over again,” she said. “Give them bank statements, try and prove I deserve the modification. So I don’t even know if they’ll accept it this time.”

She has until May 28 to get the paperwork in. Members of Northwest Bronx Alliance and her church will clearly be pulling for her.

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or droberts@cnglocal.com

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