The campaign of Jersey City mayoral candidate Lewis Spears is discussing the circumstances around purchasing a dilapidated home on 782 Grand St. over a decade ago, which then got foreclosed about eight years later.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
According to the Hudson County Register of Deeds, the property was purchased for $265,000 on March 23, 2010.
By November 2016, he owed over $414,000 on the building and it was ultimately foreclosed at a Hudson County Sheriff’s sale for $457,000 in December 2018, according to court records.
Spears campaign manager Michele Lewis said the house was purchased around the same time he got accepted into Harvard grad school and while he moved back to New Jersey with his wife the following year, the house remained unlivable.
“Lewis was very aware of how this situation could impact his family’s financial future. He was 26 years old when the house was purchased, and as he said in the op-ed, he often uses this story to show the youth he mentors how the choices you make when you don’t face up to your responsibilities can follow you forever,” she said in a statement.
Late last month, shortly after Mayor Steven Fulop’s campaign went on offense over Spears’ prior affiliation with the Republican party, he penned an Op-Ed in the Jersey City Times calling on the incumbent to run an issue-based campaign.
He also mentioned several other expected attack points he would be targeted for by his opponent, including 782 Grand St.
“He made several attempts to try to ‘fix’ a situation that he simply did not have the financial resources to address. When he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to pay the mortgage, he called the financial institution to see if he could defer payments, but of course, there were none,” Lewis continued.
“Even when he was financially able to begin making payments on the house, he could not. He needed to make a lump some payment on what was owed to get the account current, but he did not have the money to do that. Stuck between a rock and a hard place in a situation he created, he attempted several short sales, but the mortgage holder blocked them.”
She further stated that Spears never made a payment on the house and it was foreclosed on by the Bank of America after about eight years.
In the aforementioned Op-Ed, Spears said that he sold the house, which Lewis indicated was “truly an error” due to the haste in trying to get the piece published.
Expectedly, Fulop campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski said Spears’ “excuses” don’t change the fact that he allowed a blighted property “to damage the surrounding neighborhood and negatively impact residents’ quality of life.”
He also said that his seven property infractions, mostly related to garbage and snow removal, “proves how irresponsible he is,” another example of how he is not fit to run this city.
Three of those, related to snow removal, garbage on the property, and failure to abate the refuse the garbage, are still outstanding, court records show.
“Spears continues to mislead residents about his background, falsely claiming he sold the property when in reality it was foreclosed due to failure to pay the mortgage, just like he failed to disclose that he spent over 10 years as a registered Republican,” he stated.
“People make mistakes but Jersey City voters demand more from someone who wants to lead their city, and Lewis Spears is proving again that he’s the wrong choice.”
The non-partisan Jersey City municipal elections are on November 2nd and Spears is challenging Fulop, seeking a third term, is in a head-to-head contest for the mayoralty.