Mortgage Consulting - The New "Scam"

I recently wrote this guide on Avvo based on a article I read in Crain's New York. I thought I would highlight it here, and expand it a little bit for you guys.

Here it is in a nutshell for the short attention span people - there are a lot of crooks out there, and the "Good guys" are on their trail, but until they catch up with them, buyer beware. The services they offer you can actually get for free if you look hard enough, or you can actually do yourself with a little education.

With foreclosures in New York City alone up 50% over the past year, those brokers that sold those subprime loans that contributed to the financial crisis are now "Modification Consultants". Here's what you need to know to steer clear of these characters and where to go for REAL mortgage assistance.

Here's Their Pitch: These "consultants" scour public records, like ACRIS and, and look for people in danger of defaulting on their mortgage loans. Most of this information is public knowledge if you know where to look.

They then bombard you with a barrage of mailings and phone solicitations - you've probably heard them, saw them, or know someone who has. They advertise themselves as a solution to your debt problems where, for a "modest" upfront fee, they'll negotiate with your bank to bring down the rate / term of your loan.

In many cases, they'll also advise you to STOP paying your mortgage. Some even claim to be "licensed" to do this kind of work. According to Crain's New York, mortgage modification is one of the fastest growing job fields in the country today.

Here's The Truth About Them: While some turn out to be legitimate, many of these "consultants" do little, if any, good.. and can potentially do a lot of harm while taking your money.

Let's dispell the myths: First, "consultants" can't charge an upfront fee for these services - it's illegal in New York (and in 11 other states) to do so unless you are an attorney or a non-profit.

Second, anyone advising you to stop making your regular payments is irresponsible, and following their bad advice can put you, more often than not, closer to the edge of foreclosure. Failing to pay your payment will not only put you in a hole financially, but harm your credit rating, and harm your chances of getting other loans and financing. The main rules about credit that I tell everyone are (1) try to pay your bills as regularly as possible and (2) NEVER close a credit line - the older the credit history, the better for your score.

Third, once they get your money, many "consultants" do little work (if they do any at all), and are unresponsive, leaving you in an even bigger hole than you started.

Finally, know that there is NO license for mortgage modification in the State of New York, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

Here's How To Avoid The Scam: Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to tell a legitimate mortgage modification company from a shady one - the wheels of justice are turning slowly and will figure that out for us. In fact, the New York Attorney General's office is investigating these firms. Until the authorities have time to catch up with this scam, there are plenty of legitimate resources to turn to for your mortgage concerns.

If you need assistance with your mortgage, there are qualified attorneys out there, and many of them donate their services to non-profit organizations specifically dealing with the mortgage crisis. You can find these organizations through your city and state government. One that I would suggest is Comptroller Thompson's Foreclosure Hotline.

As an alternative, you have the right to contact your lender and negotiate new terms for yourself! You don't need anybody to contact your bank - who knows more about your situation than you?

The one rule that applies to every bank is this - they want money, and they'll make the deal that they perceive will maximize their bottom line the most. Keep this in mind when coming up with your negotiation strategy. So if the current mortgage arrangement won't pay the bank the most, then maybe the alternative is better for them and for you. Many lenders will work with borrowers who find themselves in a hardship situation.

These free and low-cost options are the best way to tackle your mortgage concerns. Take advantage of all that's out there. In these tough financial times, knowledge is power. Feel free to ask any questions, and I'll answer them on here.

My Own Year In Review

2008 is a year that many of us will want to forget, but in the spirit of "those things that don't kill us make us stronger", I'm gonna take stock in what I've been through this year, and take a look back at the year that was for me personally and professionally.

FEBRUARY: The future of my neighborhood is very important to me, so I was pleased when the Borough President's office invited the SB/PB Civic Association to meet with other community members at the request of the owner of the Golden Gate Motor Inn to discuss what the community would like to see built on the site. This was the first time that a property owner ever made such a request - a pivotal moment in the development of Sheepshead Bay, at least in my mind.

February also saw Gotham Sports Media burst onto the internet radio scene with "Live From Mickey Mantle's" , the first weekly internet sports show to broadcast from a live venue. Since then, Gotham Sports Radio's programs have consistently topped the sports programming ranking on BlogTalkRadio, the internet's leading radio platform. "Mantle's" will always hold a special place for me, because I had the privilege of producing the show throughout the spring and summer.

In fact, throughout the spring, I pretty much did nothing BUT rub elbows with the top sports analysts and personalities! It was a whole lot of fun.

JUNE: Before I hit the "Big 3-0", I guess Fate had one more rite of passage for me to go through - the "perp" walk! So, on June 6th, my last day as a twenty-something, I was "detained" by the NYPD. By now, most people know the story, and if you don't, look it up online - I'm not going to re-tell the story or respond to those people who either don't believe my account, or don't want to believe it for whatever reason. What I will say is that I think I am a better person for doing what I did and going through what I went through, and I hope the community is better for it as well.

JULY: So if my episode with the NYPD and some people in Manhattan Beach wasn't enough fun for the summer, I then found myself in a war of words with attorneys for Stephen Jemal, a developer in the area. Apparently, a blog entry on the SB/PB Civic's site ruffled his feathers a little bit. Add in a little problem with an unidentified "Hacker" and you have the making of even more drama! In the end, the Civic decided to modify what was written in exchange for Mr. Jemal's attendance at one of our meetings to answer some questions - a condition that he still hasn't met.

In this case, I believe Jemal's actions speak louder than any words the Civic ever wrote.

AUGUST: The highlight of my year was the communuty's work on the Brigham Street Park Project. We started down a great road in designing a park that is totally community driven, and environmentally friendly. The Project has since expanded into a whole plan for Plumb Beach - so stay tuned!

So many people are committed to turning design into reality, and we will.

SEPTEMBER: The most fun I had all year was at a Plumb Beach Clean-Up with my friend and Brigham Park designer Jon Fouskaris. Who knew that digging up a boat hull and floating it a mile or so down a beach could be such a blast!

The SS Fouskaris will live on forever!

OCTOBER: I made a personal career choice to pursue my legal career in earnest and joined a small Manhattan litigation practice. In 2 1/2 months, I've learned more about the law than I have in 2 1/2 years! Without a doubt, this was the best decision I've made all year. I am looking forward to all that this practice brings in 2009 and beyond!

DECEMBER: The final accomplishment of the year for the Civic was the recovery of the Lundy's Memorial Plaque. This transfer of ownership was months in the making thanks to Marty Golden's office and the Pappas family.

Also, Gotham Sports Media acquired the online right to "Baseball Digest", the oldest baseball publication in the United States. How amazing is THAT?!? To me, that's like owning a small piece of Americana, and my partners and I recognize that we have a special responsibility to uphold the tradition and legacy of it. Look for us to debut in March of 2009.

So those are some of my highlights, but there were some low moments as well, I've lost friends and family that I miss deeply, and gone through much strife within my family and my work life. But just as I think everyone does around this time of year, I have an eye on where I've been and I am looking forward happily at where I'm going.

Hope springs eternal. Bring on 2009!

Gotham Sports Media Launches !!!

Here is some awesome news from Gotham Sports Media, of which I am part-owner and General Counsel. This is an exciting project that has been a year in the making, and I'm so proud to share it with all of you!

Congratulations to my partners Mark Healey and Paul Greco (who are right now living the high life in Vegas covering MLB's Winter Meetings while I'm freezing my butt off in NYC!), Joe Janish and our consulting team on a job very well done.

Baseball Digest To Launch Website, Names Mark Healey Online Editor
Legendary Baseball Publication Will Unveil New Site In Time For 2009 Season

New York, NY (PRWEB) December 8, 2008 -- Baseball Digest, standing alone as the oldest, continuously published baseball magazine in the United States, announced today that it will launch in time for the the 2009 baseball season. Norman Jacobs, the Publisher of Baseball Digest since 1969, has chosen Mark Healey as Baseball Digest's online editor, and his company, Gotham Sports Media, to develop the website,

"Bringing Baseball Digest to the Internet is an exciting new chapter in the history of this great magazine," Jacobs said. "I am equally thrilled to have Mark Healey directing this effort for us, I share his enthusiasm for this project and am confident in his ability to introduce Baseball Digest to a whole new audience."

Healey, who founded Gotham Sports Media, LLC in April of 2005, has been Executive Editor of Gotham Baseball Magazine since its inception. Prior to creating his company, Healey worked at Associated Press, specifically AP Sports, from 1998-2006.

"I grew up reading Baseball Digest, and joining its ranks is a lifelong dream realized," Healey said. "Our development team, headed by Associate Editors Paul Greco and Joe Janish, will ensure that baseball fans of all ages will make their number one source for baseball news."

The new site, scheduled to launch on March 1, 2009, will not only be the legendary magazine's online showpiece, but will also offer real-time statistics, Fantasy Baseball advice, and historical perspective from some of the best baseball writers in the business. With interactive forums and pages for every team in baseball, will be a one-stop baseball source for news, trade rumors and features about the Grand Old Game.

About Baseball Digest:
Baseball Digest Magazine was established in 1942, making it the longest-running active baseball magazine. It provides captivating insights on major league baseball history and on current stars -- from one-on-one interviews and special features to exclusive statistics as well as complete rosters and schedules throughout the season. Published eight times a year -- with National and American League schedules, directories and pre-season rosters -- it is dedicated solely to America's Pastime.

About Gotham Sports Media:
Gotham Sports Media, founded in 2005, owns and operates the Gotham Sports Media Network, a collection of award-winning web sites that boast one of the largest audiences of any independent New York sports media outlet. For more information, visit Gotham Sports Media online at

Let Them Write! Let Them Write!

Oh C'mon! Everyone Loves a Bad News Bears Reference!

I recently read a posting from The Brooklyn View's Ed DeMarche that, ironically enough, was a blog discussing why he feels that bloggers should not be issued press credentials. The topic has been flying around the good ol' InterWeb recently. Sheepshead Bites has a great accounting of the plight of bloggers who were denied credentials. picked up some editorial content regarding "old media" and their preferential treatment of notable persons that, to say the least, gets a tad controversial.

(Just a word about that latter blog entry - because it has the potential of exploding, in my opinion. When it comes to unsubstantiated opinion, I never blindly accept what is posited by anyone, and suggest that we all deal in supported facts. I also think that at the very least, that much is owed to the subject of the entry - no matter what your personal opinion of that person may be.)

Here's the short version of my opinion for everyone with a short attention span: The days of labeling bloggers in one negative lump are over. Many have earned their stripes and deserve the privilege of credentialing, and traditionalists in "old media" and the gatekeepers of credentialed events should embrace those that have shown they can live up to the standards of journalism instead of summarily dismissing bloggers - and others still should look to their own and not worry about what the "competition" should and should not have, because they're not exactly bastions of journalistic ethics.

Now the long version...

Before you say "Oh no, here comes another big mouth blogger", yes, I have a VERY big mouth, but hold your horses there, pal! I'm newer to blogging than I am to journalism! To the uninformed, I'm part owner of the largest independent sports media company in New York, Gotham Sports Media, and Publisher of Gotham Baseball Magazine. You think living up to city standards for credentialing is hard - try Major League Baseball, which we have now for years! So I know a thing or three about the standards of journalistic integrity, and obtaining credentials not only for city events, but for national sporting events.

Anyways, back on topic... You can't paint all bloggers with the same brush.

Here's an example of a way to decide which bloggers should be credentialed: First, parse out the blogs that deal in current events and handle op-ed from the strictly opinion blogs. Then, parse out the bloggers with an policy agenda from those that go after all news in the interest of reporting local news.

Then look to the work - because in the end, that's what's most important - not the source.

I happen to think that we have two great examples of high-quality news bloggers in our area with Ned & Ray at Sheepshead Bites and Dan at They attend as many local meetings as possible, they're respectful and professional in how they go about their work, and their work product is timely and informative. And they're passionate about what they do. I would have no problem recommending them to my editorial board for credentials at any stadium in the nation. (Another side note - sports media has started moving in this direction - look at SNY's Blog Network as a great example. The rest, I'm sure will catch up in the future.)

In fact, I'd take their writing over some of the, well... let's call them "marginal" local newspapers that some neighborhoods are saddled with. Many a time, I've seen stories first reported in a blog lifted by print and become fraught with inaccuracies, and photos lifted from online sources without permission. Hell, even more established "media sources" lift stories from blogs - Mr. DeMarche admits being inspired by Sheepshead Bites in his posting. At least he has the integrity to say that he reads blogs, which many others deny until blue in the face even while sitting at their computer monitor looking for their next "scoop".

Point being, there are bad apples in both bushels. But why is one more deserving of the credentialing process than the other? It's like "old media" is claiming a quasi-monopoly over the news with government's assistance.

How much would it really take to create an examination process whereby bloggers who meet a certain standard for the city to give them a pass? Not much I would think. If "old media" doesn't want to be associated with them or is government is wary of them, then create a "blogger pass" with its owns standards and access. Just don't slam the door in their face! Citizen Journalism is Here, and it's not going anywhere.

Ok, enough's enough - here's the conclusion. If someone has the passion and the drive to blog on current events and to make a commitment to do it as efficiently and as diligently as possible, then what is really the difference between a freelance reporter and a blogger?

Only the medium, and the meager pay - and if they're willing to work for free, then who are we to put up obstacles?

With Apologies to Brooklyn Bar Association...

I didn't realize that when I named this blog that there may be confusion with another "Brooklyn Barrister". But, after a simple Google search, I found the publication run by the Brooklyn Bar Association. Not being a member myself (I'm working mostly out of Manhattan now, and have pledged my allegiance to NYCLA), I didn't even think to look for it.

So much for me being clever.... I should've known that I couldn't think up a catchy name that wasn't already out there! Not the greatest of moves on my part! Not the first time I screwed up, sure won't be the last.

As a means of atonement, I encourage everyone to check out the Brooklyn Bar Association's website - and further encourage you to use them as a resource if you legal counsel in Brooklyn.

My Take on The Whole "Development v. Neighborhood Preservation" Issue

If you've ever gone to a Community Board meeting - and chances are, you haven't - then you'd know that there's a growing divide between those who feel that neighborhoods should be totally preserved, and those who feel that neighborhoods should change with the influx of new residents.

(There I am, yappin', and yappin' at CB15, and probably not saying much!)

Actually you don't need to go to a Community Board meeting to know this, but if you did, you'd see that the tension is palpable.

And it's all over the place - Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Homecrest... and each neighborhood has their own story. But in all of them, neighbor is pitted against neighbor.

Let's get my personal view out of the way - although I have vocally in favor of preserving my neighborhood, I do so in the face of what I believe is haphazard development with no real plan and no regard for the infrastructure in the neighborhood. I am NOT against properly planned development that doesn't tax infrastructure, and doesn't harm immediate neighbors.

Translation, I believe that there's gotta be a middle ground. And in that spirit, I have a lot to say to both sides.

To those who believe in neighborhood preservation: I get it, things are great the way they are, and people should conform to how things are. But is that really what you want? If nothing changes, well... then nothing changes. Life becomes stale and stagnant. There's no growth, no differing opinions, no progress. Yes, things are good the way they are, but things can always be improved, and we should all strive towards progress and improvement, shouldn't we?

You need to get off that high horse and stop crusading. Not every home is a landmark, and not all change is bad. Get to know your new neighbors, and instead of questioning why a homeowner needs an extra bedroom (which frankly is none of your business), welcome them and engage them as much as you can. You might even make a friend!

To those who think that neighborhoods were meant to be changed: You think I just made the argument for you, right? WRONG. You see, you can go too far as well. I gotta think that you came to a given neighborhood for a reason - probably because you like the neighborhood and what it offers. So why change it radically? Why not integrate yourself into the neighborhood before you decide to alter it? Get involved in local activities - hell, just get to know your neighbors! You may find that things, for the most part, are just peachy.

You may also find that if you are good to your neighbors, change is more likely to be embraced than protested. You need to remember that just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do something. I mean, do you want to be the family that everyone on the block hates because you had dumpsters and construction workers blocking the street for weeks so you can have a house that sticks out like a sore thumb?

I mean honestly, do you think anyone should have to live with a monstrosity like this one next to them? (Thanks Cliff for giving the photo scale!)

See a common theme? Both sides have to take John, Paul, George and Ringo's advice and "come together" somehow. If it's only a case-by-case basis, then great! It's a start. But the leaders of both factions need to come to some kind of understanding.

Easier said than done, I know. I mean, there's all kinds of barriers besides your views on building. There are most likely cultural differences and stereotypes, religious divides, and other schisms. I for one didn't talk to a friend for months because he said the Mets suck, so I know how hard compromise can be!

And on a side note, next year is our year!

But for the sake of everyone involved, it has to be done. That is, unless you plan on surrounding your house with barbed wire fencing and posting gun turrets on every corner, or you like being a small minded shut-in that interacts with no one but "your own kind".

And if either is the case, you probably shouldn't come by here so often...

Let's get started building more than just structures.


If you've found this blog already, then wow, I'm impressed! I just told a few people about it.

If you don't know me, check out my bio... when I put it up.

I intend for this blog to be many things:"

1) My "legal diary" - A place to comment on the law. I feel like I am growing and becoming a good advocate for my clients - hopefully a tool like this will help in that growth.

2) My "soap box" - A spot to rant about the South Brooklyn political scene, a topic that I've become acquainted with over the course of the past few years. For too long, my family members have been the victims of my ranting and raving... now all of you can share their pain!

3) My "check and balance" - Hopefully, more than a few of you will feel strongly enough about something to comment on what I wrote. I encourage you to challenge me on EVERYTHING! Call me out or whatever I say on here, please! I firmly believe that we all benefit from the give and take of debate, and from seeing things from different points of view. As my closest friends like to point out to me - often - no matter how strongly I think to the contrary, I'm not always right!

I know, I was shocked by that too. So feel free to go after what I say and think, it's all good.

Anyways, I also promise that it won't be all work and no fun... there'll be a nice balance of both.

I hope you stop back every once in a while, and if you're so moved to, feel free to comment on anything. I promise to comment back.