In November of 2015, a tax lien sale was held by Rockland County for a vacant lot in South Nyack. Only two people were present as bidders for this auction. After a lengthy back and forth competition starting at $32,000, the property was awarded to the top bidder for $66,000.
Approximately one year later, the second bidder who is a female attorney, was contacted by a representative of the Rockland County Real Property Tax department and informed that the winner of the auction had defaulted. As a result, the lot was now available to her as the next highest bidder for purchase at the price of her last bid of $65,000.
On January 9, 2017, within the time frame given to her to make a decision to proceed with her bid, the second bidder delivered a Memorandum of Purchase/Offer to the county stating that she intended to proceed to complete the purchase of the property.
On February 15th, 2017 a representative from the county, Sean Matthews, contacted the potential buyer and informed her that the sale would be brought before the Rockland County Legislature within the following month for it to decide in his words “whether they want to sell it to her or not.”
At this point the buyer reached out to Legislator Lon Hofstein asking him to inform her when the matter would be on the agenda. Hofstein advised her that it was slated to come before a legislative committee on March 28, 2017.
Then this routine sale began to take on some strange twists and turns with subterfuge and evasiveness ……
On the evening of March 28th, after a rather lengthy agenda, the subject of the auction was skipped over and not discussed. The chairman of the committee, Legislator Jay Hood, stated that the pending sale had been removed from the agenda. Legislator Hofstein pointed out that the buyer had been sitting patiently throughout the legislative session in the chamber and he asked why this topic would not be discussed.
Hood’s response was that he did not need to provide an explanation. When Legislator Hofstein pressed him on this, Legislator Alden Wolfe spoke up and admitted he requested that the topic not be discussed. Wolfe also refused to provide a reason.
Before adjourning, Legislator Hofstein publicly asked Sean Matthews what the precedent is when a winning bidder defaults on this type of sale. Mr. Matthews stated on the record that the property is offered to the second highest bidder. Yet, the matter was tabled for reasons unknown.
On May, 16, 2017, the second bidder again contacted Legislator Hofstein asking that she be given an update. Hofstein advised her that legal counsel for the legislature was preparing a resolution on behalf of Legislator Wolfe pertaining to the property. Legislator Hofstein asked for an explanation on what this resolution entailed but did not receive a response. Hofstein subsequently notified the buyer that he did not receive a response from the legislature’s legal counsel.
On May 26, 2017, the second bidder again contacted Legislator Hofstein after hearing that Legislator Wolfe was planning to propose a resolution to deny her bid. Following that surprising development, in June the bidder received a phone call from a woman with whom she was not acquainted and who was calling her at her unlisted home telephone number. That caller, also a female, advised the second bidder that she resided next door to the property and that she was in the process of purchasing it.
The caller failed to mention two important facts:
1. The caller had retained legal counsel to contest the sale. (The current buyer alleges that counsel is former Rockland County Legislator Barry Kantrowitz.)
2. The caller intended to use her influence with the legislature to prevent the second bidder from proceeding with the purchase of the property.
After receiving an update from the second bidder, Legislator Hofstein – in whose district the second bidder has her business office -attempted to determine the status of the sale of the property, Legislator Hofstein requested the matter be added to the July 25th agenda of the Budget & Finance committee.
However, the Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee informed Hofstein that the “matter would not be discussed at the July 25th session” and would be postponed to a later undetermined date. To add to the intrigue, it turned out that Legislator Hood was not present for that particular committee session and Legislator Wolfe was acting as the chairman.
As evidence that something untoward may be occurring here we note that two other similar properties were auctioned by the county on the same date as the subject of this article, and both of these went through a lengthy process in which the sales were brought before the legislature committee, voted on in legislative session, vetoed by the County Executive, not overridden by the legislature, and brought before the Budget & Finance committee for a SECOND Time.
Yet this sale has not been brought up even once. One must ask: Why?
The process should be simple. The second bidder should be afforded the chance to have the sale approved by the legislature. Why is the bid process seemingly being circumvented?
Is Legislator Wolfe involved in an attempt to steer the sale away from the current buyer and into the hands of someone else with political connections? If so, what legal grounds does Wolfe have for doing so?
Is Wolfe’s involvement related to the alleged involvement of Barry Kantrowitz? The property is not in Wolfe’s district, nor is the buyer or newly interested party.
Legislator Wolfe is presently seeking the office of Rockland County Surrogate Court Judge. Wolfe’s track record of supporting special treatment for some at the expense of equal treatment for others in the legislature is already troubling, but would be arguably even more dangerous in a court of law. A judge is supposed to serve the public in an unbiased manner, but Wolfe’s suspicious actions here appear to indicate that bias and favoritism are very much in play. Why would anyone think Wolfe’s behaviors will change with the bloc vote fully supporting his candidacy?
The prospective buyer is now of the belief that her matter will continue to be delayed until after Wolfe’s primary and then again possibly until after the general election. As things stand now it appears that someone with political connections has Alden Wolfe’s attention.
What, if anything, that person gains from it remains to be seen.