Protesters Accuse Bank of Neglecting Malden Properties
UPDATE: Bank of America responds.
About ten to fifteen protesters cleaned a dilapidating, foreclosed property on Clinton St. Monday morning, and then delivered the ten bags of trash they collected to the Malden Center branch of Bank of America.
Activists associated with Mass Uniting accused the bank, who owns the property on 56 Clinton St., of failing to maintain a number of properties throughout the city and commonwealth.
They said they hoped the symbolism of returning the trash to the bank would send a message to bank executives about the impact neglected foreclosures can have on a community.
Locals speak out:
“I'm a homeowner in Malden, I pay property taxes here,” Gus Cook said. “I live on a street where there are houses that, for a period of time, were abandoned, (have) a lot of overgrowth and trash build-up, and it tends to affect the curb appeal of the properties around them. Properties that are next to yours are going to affect your property value.”
“It's very sad,” Lisa Hines, an Everett-based community activist with the group said. “The family's belongings were still in the home.”
Televisions, loose gutters, paper and other trash comprised most of the collected debris, Hines said. It also appeared to sustain some wind damage from Tropical Storm Irene.
“They need to be accountable,” she said. “They need to take care of their property. They foreclosed on these properties – they didn't choose to renegotiate the loans – and if you are going to kick people out and not let them take care of their own (home), you need to take care of your property.
Bank representatives meet with protesters, comment
Activists were respectful but stern with a bank manager who came to accept the trash, though protesters complied with a police request they dispose of the bags themselves.
“We wanted to make a deposit; unfortunately, they didn't want to take it,” Hines joked.
Bank spokesman T.J. Crawford said that Bank of America was "committed to maintain properties to neighborhood standards."
"When we learn that a property is not being maintained, we take action to remedy the situation," he said.
Crawford said that 56 Clinton St. was maintained as recently as last Friday. During the protest, some activists noted that the property did seem to have been touched up before their arrival.
Crawford said residents with concerns about nearby, Bank of America-owned properties can report negligence to their field services department.
"We will address it as soon as possible," he said, noting that the bank manages about a million such properties.
Official: city sieged by vacant property reports
Malden's inspection services director and city council candidate Chris Simonelli confirmed Bank of America had been assessed a $500 fee for a vacancy exceeding one year on Clinton St., but noted that the city was working with a realtor who had a buyer for the property.
“But there are several violations with the house that need to be dealt with, and the bank has been dragging their heels on it, just like so many of the other banks have been...since the market...tanked,” he said.
Simonelli said the department tries to stay on top of such complaints, but that a “skeleton” staff, a bad housing market and slow litigation can drag the process out.
The properties can serve as both a public safety and health hazard, he explained.
The Malden demonstration took place in the context of larger protests in Manhattan's financial district this week, as thousands of protesters 'occupied' Wall Street to urge President Barack Obama to create a commission aimed at ending "the influence money has over our representatives in Washington."