Home Savers comes to rescue former mayor from foreclosure

Photo by Chris Sykes
From left, Fredricka Bey, Jihadah Sharif, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, 1st Ward Councilman Chris James, Ed Kaiser of the Irvington NAACP and People’s Organization for Progress, 4th Ward Councilman Casim Gomez, Assemblyman Tom Giblin and City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green stand together with former East Orange Mayor Tom Cooke, center, on Wednesday, Oct. 18, during the rally to save his home from home mortgage foreclosure. Collectively, they are known as the Home Savers and they are ready, willing and able to do the same for other homeowners across Essex County that are struggling to stay in their homes.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The Home Savers are helping Essex County residents stay in their homes, just in time for the Citizens Coalition Home Mortgage Foreclosure Seminar in East Orange’s City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m.

The Home Savers roster features East Orange City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green, 1st Ward Councilman Chris James, 4th Ward Councilman Casim Gomez, Fredricka Bey, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Assemblyman Tom Giblin, the Irvington NAACP, the People’s Organization for Progress, and others.

On Wednesday, Oct. 18, the group assembled at former East Orange Mayor Tom Cooke’s house on Hawthorne Avenue, in an effort to help the city’s second black mayor stay in his home.

“You don’t do these things by yourself. We stand here today because a gentleman who we feel was a drum major in this city when he was the mayor, we’re here to support him,” Green said Wednesday, Oct. 18. He is running for mayor in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“We have a council that not only cares about our citizens, but we also have legislation that the City Council passed to support our legislators on the state level, to make sure home mortgage foreclosure Bill A-5138 gets passed in Trenton. So we’re here not only for the honorable Tom Cooke, but for all those that have been affected by home mortgage foreclosures.”

The pending legislation in Trenton, sponsored by state Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, would provide homeowners with a six month time period — during which interest rates would remain stable — in which to work out a loan modification, refinancing or an alternative to foreclosure. It would also make additional requirements on attorneys, lenders and courts before proceeding with a foreclosure.

James was fighting for East Orange and Essex County homeowners’ rights long before he joined the Home Savers. Since he was elected for the first time in 2013, James has been involved with multiple efforts to help struggling homeowners, in conjunction with outgoing Mayor Lester Taylor.

“Mayor Cooke has had our back, when he was the mayor of the city, doing great programs; now we’re standing here to make sure we have his back and all the residents of East Orange and the state of New Jersey, to make sure that we get this moratorium gets taken care of and people have the breathing room to figure out how to stay in their homes,” said James on Wednesday, Oct. 18. “This issue is not a new one to anyone, but the problem is banks are still foreclosing on properties, breaking up neighborhoods without actually giving anyone a chance to stay in their homes. We’re standing here with Mayor Cooke and all the residents of East Orange and the rest of New Jersey.”

Gomez said he is a member of the Home Savers because he knows firsthand what it means to deal with home mortgage foreclosure. He joined with Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders President Britnee Timberlake to allow Boston Community Capital give a presentation of their Saving Urban Neighborhoods program at one of the council’s regular meetings.

Gomez said he’s proud of Cooke and the other struggling homeowners who have come forward to share their issues with the public, with the hope of getting help.

“This is something I take quite personally,” said Gomez on Wednesday, Oct. 18. “What we’ve got to remember is, these are our neighbors. This is a neighborhood issue. This is not a sterile issue. I must commend Mayor Cooke for having the courage to share this story, because there are a lot of us suffering in silence. They don’t want to share their story, because it’s emotional.”

Cooke thanked Gomez and the others who came out on his behalf on Wednesday, Oct. 18, and directly addressed the question that’s likely on the mind of anyone that now knows he’s having personal home mortgage foreclosure issues: How does a former mayor of East Orange find himself in such a situation?

“I want to thank all of you for the support that you have given me during my public office, working on behalf of our citizens, and when we are elected, we are expected to do the right thing. Not being corrupted, not being bought and not being bought even by the party itself. Sometimes, you have to tell the party chiefs themselves what they want is not good for your city or your people,” said Cooke on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Cooke was frank about his current foreclosure issues, but the Home Savers said he won’t lose his home if they have anything to say about it.

“I can’t thank Thomas H. Cooke enough, for all he has done for me and my family and all of the citizens of East Orange and New Jersey,” said Bey on Wednesday, Oct. 18. “We’re here to support the honorable Tom Cooke, who was the mayor when we came to the city of East Orange, who had the sense and the good graces to get government programs, so that it helped us to get a furnace in our home, get tools to help remodel our home, so we support him and we love him and he’s going to keep his home. Assembly Bill 5138 is the bill that we’re fighting for, a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures in the state of New Jersey for two years, so help us God.”

Tucker agreed with Bey, saying, “It’s very important that we get this bill, A-5138, passed, because it’s for all the citizens of the state of New Jersey, because New Jersey is the most foreclosed state in the United States.”