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Stand with Ms. Ward

Ms. Mary Lee Ward:

” “You gotta put up a hard fight for the faith. You have to stick with it, when you know that you’re right, you know you have the evidence, you know you have the facts. Don’t let nobody walk over you. Don’t let nobody make you a slave.””

Mary Lee Ward is an 82-year-old great-grandmother who has lived in her home in Brooklyn, NY for 44 years. Known affectionately as “Mama” in her community, she became the victim of a predatory loan scam by Delta Funding, a company she found advertised on a flier tucked into her mailbox. At the time, Ms. Ward needed money for legal fees for great granddaughter’s adoption case, and borrowed $82,000 against her house. She only ever received a check for a little more than a $1000, however. Realizing it was a scam, she rescinded the loan and never accepted any of the money.

The lender sent a letter to Ms. Ward in 2001 informing her that they were canceling her loan, but the loan never was canceled. Instead, the mortgage passed from financial institution to financial institution over more than a decade. Delta Funding was later shut down for predatory practices directed at elderly members of minority groups throughout Queens and Brooklyn in New York. Unable to pay the growing debt, Ms. Ward was issued a judgment of foreclosure in 2008 and the property was put up for auction that July. The winning bidder, the real estate investment company 768 Dean Inc., arranged through a court order to have a city marshal remove Ms. Ward from her home on August 19.

On the day of the eviction, the collective Organizing for Occupation (O4O) and members of the Bed-Stuy community poured out onto the streets outside Ms. Ward’s house, forming an eviction blockade and successfully fending off the marshal’s attempt to evict her. Ms. Ward remains in her home today, more than four months later. Due to the success of the blockade and later actions to pressure the NYS Attorney General’s (AG) office to open an investigation into the fraudulent foreclosure sale of Ms. Ward’s home, the AG’s office has intervened to mediate between Ms. Ward and the alleged owner. With the help of community leaders and advocacy groups, the parties are in negotiations to keep Ms. Ward in her home and resolve any issues regarding its ownership. Bedford-Stuyvesant Legal Services represents Ms. Ward in these negotiations.

Because there are no absolute guarantees that a settlement can be reached, to ensure that Ms. Ward is kept safe in her home, O4O members teamed up with local community groups and Brooklyn residents to form the Bed-Stuy Eviction Watch (BSEW). BSEW contacts the marshal’s office to check whether an eviction is scheduled at Ms. Ward’s home, and maintains a list of ready volunteers to respond immediately to any attempts to remove Ms. Ward from her home as well as defend other members of the community.