Government briefs

Mortgage fraud fight goes digital

The city launched a new tracking system designed to flag transactions in its public property records database that show signs of mortgage fraud, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several of the city’s district attorneys announced last month. The system — which will single out things like multiple, rapid changes in ownership, property transfers at below-market prices, and property sales at prices just barely below the minimum threshold for tax filings — will be monitored by the mayor’s Financial Crime Task Force. Since mortgage fraudsters often target immigrants and the elderly, the system will also look for property owners who work with those populations when identifying potentially shady deals. The task force will pass along flagged addresses to various law enforcement agencies.

New book demystifies zoning laws

A new handbook was released last month, seeking to “demystify” the zoning rules in New York City, a project organized by Amanda Burden, the commissioner of the Department of City Planning, the New York Times reported. Prior to the creation of the “Zoning Handbook,” zoning rules could only be found in the zoning resolution, a 1,500-page book that was virtually incomprehensible to laypeople and even to city officials, the Times said. That book, Burden said, is “impossible to understand.” With the new handbook, Burden hopes to change that. “I think [it] is entertaining — it’s fun to read,” Burden said. “It turns out that boring old zoning, when used creatively, can be used to solve a whole lot of problems.”

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Hunter’s Point South renderings revealed

Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled renderings for the new Hunter’s Point South development in Queens last month. The Long Island City project is slated to include roughly 5,000 residential units, 3,000 of which will be set aside for middle-income residents. According to the mayor’s office, the project is the largest new affordable housing complex in the city since the 1970s. Also planned for the complex is a 1,071-seat middle and high school. The Related Companies was awarded the contract on the $360 million project. Bloomberg said that the development is an important step toward achieving his goal of building 165,000 total units of affordable housing in the five boroughs. “Not only will we build the largest new affordable housing complex in more than three decades, we’ll do it on long-vacant waterfront property that has incredible views,” Bloomberg said.

Cuomo names new housing agency head

Brooklyn Assembly Member Darryl Towns was appointed Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last month. The commissioner also serves as chief executive of the state’s major housing and community renewal agencies, including the Housing Finance Agency and State of New York Mortgage Agency. Since 1992, Towns has represented the 54th Assembly District in Brooklyn. During his tenure, he spearheaded the “Anchor Program,” which helped boost commercial revitalization in neighborhoods throughout the city and supported the increase of newly constructed housing developments. “Towns is a dedicated public servant who certainly fits the bill,” Cuomo said.