I stopped in the snowstorm on Thursday to capture this tremendous old Suburban on Vermont Avenue in East New York. I didn't really plan to use it on the blog (I suppose I could've tried for something along the lines of an artsy "flames in the snow" piece, but that would have been a stretch), but while I was taking the photo, a middle-aged man hurried out into the street towards me. I turned, worried that I was somehow violating a local code with respect to dolled-up cars, but I was thrown off by how concerned he looked. He spoke rapidly at me through his scarf, but I couldn't hear him, so he pulled it down and uttered a single questioning word: "Foreclosure?"
I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been--East New York has been hit as hard as any neighborhood in the city by the subprime lending catastrophe. Brownstoner has covered the past year well: A piece in January demonstrated just how high the rates of foreclosure were in the borough--the table in the linked post shows foreclosure rates at 20%, and the writer reported that over 435 homes in ENY were in foreclosure in October 2006 alone. In March, ENY led Brooklyn with the 7th highest foreclosure rate in the city, and in October, even a borough-wide decline in foreclosures wasn't good news for the neighborhood, as it led the city in pending suits. Foreclosure rates made citywide headlines in the Daily News and the Post, and Yahoo Real Estate shows over 2600 foreclosed homes in the borough.
So the man in front of me in the snow on Thursday was probably convinced that I, a white guy in a long coat snapping photos, was yet another agent working to put his neighbors out, and with fairly good reason. After a moment's confusion, I pointed at the flame-adorned Suburban and said "Naw, I just like the car." His expression went from concerned to relieved to incredulous (really, that's what the kids like these days?) in a matter of a few seconds, and he was on his way, leaving me to reflect on just how nasty a foreclosure would be on a weekend like this one.