Broadway tragedy averted
Pressure helps save downtown Detroit theater from foreclosure
Published: January 24, 2012
Jaszczak, carrying on a commitment to community, never charged them for use of the space.
But as he faced eviction, the activists he hosted — along with others — organized an attempt to help keep him from losing what he spent decades building up. The campaign, "Save 1515 Broadway," was an effort to stop Citibank from proceeding with eviction, and to pressure Citi to reinstate Jaszczak's mortgage.
In their press release, organizers of the protest pointed out that Citibank, "a bank that has received tens of billions of dollars in federal taxpayer bailouts on express condition that they aid borrowers, would rather destroy a community institution than deal equitably with Chris."
A news conference was set for Wednesday and a rally for Thursday to bring attention to the situation.
Jaszczak said last week, "All I ask is that same rationale being used on me by the bank be used on them. I signed the contract with the bank, at an exorbitant interest rate, and I fell behind and was in violation of my contract — and the bank did what it could do.
"Well, the bank took billions of dollars from the federal government in 2008 and also entered into a contractual agreement to use some of that money to help people who were in exactly my position. They got the money. And the money they've used for mortgage modification in comparison to the money they got is minuscule. What criteria do they have that I don't meet?
"Unlike the majority of people in my position, I have revenue, income, work. I make money and have the ability to pay, and I have been making escrow payments for months. They got my account balance as recently as a month ago so they could see I had the ability to pay the amount I said I could in excess of guidelines."
In fact, Jaszczak even had a wealthy friend offer to pay the note and buy the building outright. Attorney Goldberg says that the offer was scuttled because of debris falling from the nearby Wurlitzer Building, which made getting fresh insurance for 1515 almost impossible.
Jaszczak asked, "Why won't [Citibank] accept our offers? The reality is that the building is worth more than I owe. The only explanation is they want to make more money, and can make more money by taking control of it and selling it. And, unfortunately for me, there's nothing in the legislation telling the bank they have to do it. Ultimately, it's the bank's decision."
The judge, who had consistently asked the parties to come to an understanding out of court, last month granted the bank's motion to take possession and evict Jaszczak. Luckily for Jaszczak, the ruling was left unsigned, giving him until early February to lobby the bank.
And, fortunately, good news came this week, just before press time, as Citibank did a dramatic about-face as pressure mounted. On Monday, Citibank spokesperson Scott Helfman told us, "We are pleased that we were able to offer Mr. Jaszczak a loan modification to help preserve this historic building in downtown Detroit."
The news should gratify Jaszczak and his supporters, who include not just Occupy Detroit, but Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs, the People Before Banks Coalition, and Occupy Our Homes.
Jaszczak said of the announcement, "That's what they told us. I haven't seen anything in writing, but I think we had an agreement in principle on Friday night. ... It appears that something will be worked out."
Attorney Goldberg says, "I have the outline of the agreement. It's what we were hoping for. It allows this institution to stay open. In my opinion, Citibank did the right thing."
And, if the agreement is finalized by then, Thursday's planned gathering will be more of a party — celebrating what communities can do when they come together.
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