Community offers feedback on plan to save historic Newark mansion

The Krueger-Scott Mansion is at the center of a redevelopment project that will restore the 19th-century house after decades of decay.

For the group of around forty people gathered in the basement of Abyssinian Baptist Church to discuss the future of an iconic Newark landmark, a quote from the Bible posted on the wall said it best – it’s time to build.

"We believe in the potential of this project," said Carmelo Garcia, deputy mayor and director of economic and housing development, regarding a plan to restore the vacant Krueger-Scott Mansion, a palatial Victorian-era house built at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Court Street, after decades of dormancy. "We want to do something groundbreaking and transformative that will catalyze this area."

The Friday night community meeting was held to answer questions about the approximately $30 million restoration project, which is meant to be a mix of living space and work space.

Avi Telyas of Seaview Development Corporation, the developer who is partnering with the city on the project, noted that 66 apartments, both market rate and affordable housing, will be built on the back of the property, along with 16 workshops for small entrepreneurs all inside a seven-story building.

Telyas tried to allay concerns about the future of a nearly one-acre urban farm established by the Greater Newark Conservancy that is already on the property, saying that he hopes to work with the non-profit organization to move the farm to a greenhouse on the site.

"We want a community design to help you kickstart your business," Telyas said, adding that he hopes that the project will break ground later this year, with completion time approximately 14 months.

The mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1888 on what was then known as High Street by German beer baron Gottfried Krueger at a time when Newark was renowned for its production of lagers and ales. Krueger built the mansion in response to the construction of rival brewer John Ballantine’s opulent home downtown, now part of the Newark Museum.

It was purchased by local entrepreneur Louise Scott-Rountree in 1958, who used the site to run a cosmetology college and other businesses and that became a de facto community hub in the Central Ward.

For Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree, her mother’s namesake, the project brings back memories of the house she lived in more than 20 years, but also opens a window to the future.

"My mother would love this, but what’s more important is what’s going to be there," Scott-Rountree said. "We have to be mindful that whatever we do in the community has to benefit the community. Then you have to know the community that you’re in. It’s not suburbia."

Part of Newark’s cultural memory is of a time when Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was named High Street, and when High Street was called Millionaires’ Row. For one resident, the next projected wave of redevelopment that the project represents, another sign of a rapidly changing Newark, was met not with nervous trepidation but with raised expectations.

"I remember Newark when we had a middle class and an upper-middle class. That’s what has to come back." said Alif Muhammad, 65, a Central Ward resident. "I want to see market-rate apartments in the area, because I remember how beautiful it was. So I don’t have a problem."

Another resident addressed the idea of increasing socioeconomic mobility in Newark.

"My impression of this project is very different than a lot of projects that you see. Even if you go over a few blocks, they’re building housing with plans to have a percentage to be for low or moderate income. But there is no plan to help people get to the place where they can even afford low or moderate income," said Pastor Linda Ellerbe of Israel Memorial A.M.E. Church. "This is an opportunity for people to have a space to work and to live, but to also have the support to be successful."

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U.S. Stocks Tumble as Italian Woes Jolt World-Wide Markets

Investors around the globe retreated from stocks following a turn toward political upheaval in Italy, with the Dow industrials dropping more than 400 points and U.S. Treasury yields posting their largest daily decline in nearly two years.

Here’s the real way to calculate how much house you can afford.

Six years after the eurozone stepped back from the brink of a breakdown, a violent selloff in southern European debt bled into broader financial markets. Investors sought the safety of the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen, which rallied sharply.

With banks leading the downturn Tuesday, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average declined by 1.5% and 1.8% respectively, in early-afternoon trading. The Stoxx Europe 600 closed 1.4% lower.

“There’s an existential threat hanging over the single currency if we head into more elections this summer, I don’t know how we get away from that now, given the scale of the financial implications,” said Kit Juckes, chief foreign exchange strategist at Société Générale.

Indicating the worry about Italy’s future, the government’s borrowing costs skyrocketed Tuesday. An auction of six-month Italian debt, which sold for a negative yield as recently as April, drew a yield of 1.213%, with lackluster demand from investors. The country’s two-year bond, which offered a negative yield as recently as two weeks ago, exploded Tuesday to as high as 2.69%.

Italy’s woes rippled across the eurozone, driven by investor worries that an exit by the bloc’s third-largest economy could force others out—as gauged by the spread between the 10-year government bonds yields of each country and Germany’s. For Spain, these spreads widened to their widest levels in a year, and for Portugal to the widest since September.

On Sunday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella blocked the formation of a euroskeptic coalition government formed of the antiestablishment 5 Star Movement and the League parties, raising the prospect of new elections. Investors worry a new vote could strengthen the hand of anti-euro zone forces.

“We must never forget that we are only ever a few short steps away from the very serious risk of losing the irreplaceable asset of trust,” said Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said in a speech Tuesday.

The euro dropped to its lowest level against the dollar since July 2017, falling 0.6% to $1.155 after European markets closed. Investors also piled into the safe-haven Japanese yen, which traded for 108 versus the dollar, compared with 110 as recently as last week. Yields on 10-year Treasurys fell to 2.816% Tuesday from 2.931% at the end of last week.

Amundi Asset Management, Europe’s top investor with €1.4 trillion ($1.6 trillion) under supervision, had already cut most of its exposure to Southern European debt this year and is now “in a wait-and-see mode,” said Isabelle Vic-Philippe, its head of eurozone government debt.

Dickie Hodges, a bond-fund manager at Nomura Asset Management, a firm with ¥50 trillion ($457 billion) under management, said he had removed all his holdings in Italian and Spanish debt and reduced Portuguese ones.

While neither believe the eurozone will break up, they expect the market turmoil to continue—making eurozone bonds unattractive for now.

The spread between different eurozone government bonds is seen by some as a key gauge of how likely the bloc is to survive, rather than of economic performance. Even after two Italian antiestablishment parties reached an agreement for a new government earlier this month, Italian debt was mostly unruffled.

It was the news that the proposed government might seek to break eurozone rules—and had even drafted plans to exit from the euro—that brought back echoes of the 2011-2012 sovereign debt crisis, which European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is credited with ending with the promise to do “whatever it takes to preserve the euro.”

It is unclear how much bonds can sell off and for how long, investors said, because their worth ultimately depends on a political decision to keep the eurozone together.

“What is it you are trading? You don’t really know, because the implications of that tail-risk are very binary,” meaning either the euro holds together or it doesn’t, said Charlie Diebel, head of rates at Aviva Investors, which has £350 billion ($466 billion) under supervision.

Aviva had previously benefited from a rally in Italian government debt and was hoping for Spanish bonds to deliver a similar return. It has now slashed exposure to Southern European bonds.

Back in 2012, Mr. Draghi’s support managed to quell concerns that market turmoil could end up forcing a country, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain or Italy, out of the eurozone. But this time around, the risk is about a country choosing to leave, added Société Générale’s Mr. Juckes, so “it’s not clear what the ECB can do. It’s not really a liquidity issue.”

The banking sector is seen as especially vulnerable to write-offs in its large holdings of government debt, as well as people taking their money out of Europe.

Italy’s UniCredit and BPER Banca ended the day down by over 5%, while Société Générale and Deutsche Bank dropped by 2.9% and 4.6% respectively. The KBW Bank index fell by 3.5%.

The politics-driven selloff comes as global-growth expectations have diminished, driven by disappointing economic data in the eurozone.

To be sure, fund managers who bet on the resolution of the eurozone’s 2011-12 debt crisis often reaped large rewards, as bond prices rebounded and yields dropped in the subsequent years. That has left some investors looking for opportunities to re-enter European government bond markets

“I think lots of active fund managers will be looking to take positions. People have thought that the ECB might stop its purchase program in September, that doesn’t seem so likely now,” said Darren Ruane, head of fixed interest at Investec Wealth and Investment.

“I would bet that a lot of bond fund managers are coming to that conclusion and looking for attractive entry points,” he added.

Write to Jon Sindreu at and Mike Bird at

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The Woodlands finishes third at Class 6A state golf tourney

GEORGETOWN – Before the playoff hole took place at Legacy Hills Golf Club early Tuesday evening, it was already a redemption story for The Woodlands girls golf team.

After 36 holes of golf at the UIL Class 6A Tournament, the Lady Highlanders were tied for second place with powerhouse Lake Travis, the three-time defending state champions.

The Lady Cavaliers won the playoff hole on No. 18 by two strokes (all five girls from each team plays the hole) and the Lady Highlanders took third place.

Austin Westlake won going away with a 589 (290-299). It’s the Chaps’ first state title since 2011. Lake Travis goes home with silver at a 604 (303-295) while The Woodlands won bronze (303-301).

Houston Memorial fell short by just four strokes at 608 (294-314).

Last year, The Woodlands went home earlier in the day in 10th place. It was quite the turnaround this year.

"We can take this five bunch of girls and go anywhere in the country and compete," The Woodlands coach Chad Handley said. "It means a lot to us. Redemption from last year. They’ll never know how proud of them that I am."

For senior Kenlie Barrett, it was a thrill to finish her high school career with a medal.

"For The Woodlands to come in as the underdogs, it’s a big accomplishment for our whole team," she said. "It’s a fantastic feeling to win third at state. Especially in Texas."

Handley was proud with how his team played both days.

"The kids fought hard for two days," he said. "There are so many good girls golfers in Texas. We just beat nine really good teams. The teams should be proud to be here."

Karina Benavides led the way for the Lady Highlanders with at tied for 11th place finish at 71-76 (147), which was 3-over par. Barrett and Hana Bowment both tied for 22nd at 8-over par.

Avery Blake was tied for 36th while Daira Moreno was tied for 51st.

"We definitely put the heat on all the girls today," Handley said. "We weren’t going to take anything for granted and we wanted as many birdies as we could get."

The Woodlands finished second in the District 12-6A tournament and were third in the Region II-6A tournament.

The Lady Highlanders were tied for third coming into the final round.

"After we finished our round yesterday and they told me we were tied for third, I was like ‘are you serious?’," Barrett said. "It’s a really good feeling to finish my senior year like this."

For Memorial, Zoe Slaughter led the way. She finished tied for 11th at 3-over par (71-76-147). The Lady Mustangs finished fifth as a team last year.

"I was absolutely proud," Memorial coach Holly Paulk said. "They really have skill that they don’t know they have. That’s honestly our main battle is to get them to understand how good they are to believe in yourself. You’re only going to be as good as you believe you are."

Libby Winans of Plano East was the individual gold medalist. She was an impressive 9-under par. Anne Chen of Clements finished second place at 6-under par. Jennie Park of Lewisville Hebron finished third.

Leading individuals for Greater Houston included Katy Tompkins’ Elina Sinz and Klein Oak’s Amelia Mckee. Both finished tied for fourth place at 3-under par.

Cooper’s storied career comes to a close

Montgomery High School senior Hailee Cooper played her last tournament as a Montgomery Lady Bear at the UIL Class 6A championship.

The future University of Texas Longhorn was tied for seventh place at 1-under par (73-70-143) after shooting 2-under par on Tuesday.

Cooper capped a storied career for the Lady Bears. She was an individual state champion in 2015 atop many other accolades.

"At the banquet, I mentioned that she won 25 tournaments," Montgomery coach Kirk Thomason said. "She won regional three times, district four times. She never shot in the 80s in 80 rounds. On top of that, she’s a great person."

Montgomery, which drops down to Class 5A next year, finished in sixth place. The Lady Bears reached the state tournament all four years while in Class 6A with a third, two fourth place and a sixth place finish respectively.

Also at the Class 6A tournament

A year after taking sixth place, Kingwood returned to Legacy Hills Golf Club and finished 10th this year in the Class 6A championship. The Lady Mustangs were led by Marybeth Belnap who finished 9-over par (75-78-158).

Katy Seven Lakes finished in seventh place, just four shots back of Montgomery in sixth. Last year, Seven Lakes finished in ninth place as a team. Isha Dhurva finished 2-over par (72-74-146) to lead the Lady Spartans.

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The 15th Annual Tour de Elizabeth Comes to Elizabeth this Sunday

ELIZABETH, NJ – Cyclists of every skill level are readying their bicycles in anticipation as the 15th annual Tour de Elizabeth that will roll through the city.\ this coming Sunday.

This year’s ride, which is titled “Destination Elizabeth,” will begin and end at City Hall, is a family-friendly, 15-mile recreational tour of the City of Elizabeth’s historic neighborhoods.

Registration is still open online at and For those needing a bicycle, arrangements have been made by the Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization, which include a helmet, at

Walk up registrations are $25 each and also welcome. The registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the ride begins promptly at 9 a.m.

The Tour is open to all ages if the participant can keep a moderate pace of 10 miles per hour and is able to ride 15 miles, there is a bail-out at the halfway mark. Helmets are required for all riders. Members of the Elizabeth Police Department will also be on hand to escort cyclists on a route with rolling intersection closings and assist where needed.

Elizabeth is a destination City which boasts of great history, cuisine, and diversity. Groundwork Elizabeth and the City help to organize the Tour, assisted by the Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization, the Bicycle Committee, and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders are all working with the City to promote the theme and the Tour.

The event site is also home to vendors, nonprofit organizations and for the first time, it will feature a Wellness Center on the plaza in front of City Hall, courtesy of the City of Elizabeth’s Health and Human Services Department.

City Hall, which is located at 50 Winfield Scott Plaza in New Jersey’s 4th largest City. The event will go on rain or shine.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit organization Groundwork Elizabeth, whose mission is to build more sustainable communities. For more information, contact Groundwork Elizabeth at 908-289-0262.

Sponsorships, along with the commitment by Energy partner Elizabethtown Gas, help fund the Tour. Sponsors include: Elberon Development Group, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Brounell and Kramer Realtors, Harbor Consultants Inc., T&M Associates, Rotary Club of Elizabeth, State Farm Insurance office of Angel Rodriguez, Investors Savings Bank, Universal Peace Federation USA, Atalanta Corporation, BJ&M Auto, Tropicana Diner, the Gateway Family YMCA, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, the Election Fund of Carlos Torres, Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery, Infineum USA LP, the Elizabeth Avenue Partnership, the Historic Midtown Special Improvement District, the Elizabeth Housing Authority, Donald T. Alosio, Jr. DC, Hilton Newark Airport Hotel, Residential Home Funding, Stanley J. Appraisers. In-kind supporters such as Rock ’n’ Joe, IKEA, Gargiulo Fruit, Navy Veteran Printing, NJ American Water, and others add to the base of supporters who make the day a special event. is Elizabeth’s free daily news source. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook at and Twitter @TAPElizabeth.

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The system is rigged: Let’s provide legal help for Newark evictions

If we can acknowledge that decent housing is a fundamental necessity, then we can also agree that your home is worth a fair legal fight when it is under threat.

Too often, however, families that face eviction are helpless and overmatched in the cattle call of Housing Court. While 90 percent of landlords in eviction proceedings show up with a lawyer, the vast majority of tenants do not have one – if they show up at all.

You can figure out the rest: Since the only weapon against dislocation is an attorney – which are especially scarce or unaffordable in New Jersey, where the Legal Services budget has been hacked to pieces – we have an eviction epidemic, especially in the lives of the urban poor.

Mayor Ras Baraka knows how housing instability causes convulsions throughout a community – in schools, in public safety institutions, in demand for human services – so he has proposed making Newark the second city in the U.S. to provide free legal assistance to low-income residents facing eviction.

Any mayor would be alarmed by these numbers: There were 17,000 evictions filed in Newark in 2016, and very few tenants had legal help. Rutgers Law Review published a study of 40,000 eviction actions in Essex County found that in only 80 cases (two-tenths of one percent) were tenants able to present a defense, leaving the rest vulnerable to substandard living conditions, unfair rent burdens, and wrongful evictions.

Yes, a lawyer makes a difference: A tenant with counsel is 10 times more likely to prevail in court than tenants without it, a Cal-Berkeley Law School study reveals.

Newark to provide free legal aid for low-income renters facing eviction

The city council must approve the plan, and a substantial funding source needs to be established, because the legal help must go beyond court representation. It should entail all forms of advocacy, such as determining whether conditions require repair, negotiating with landlords, and dealing with court filings.

It was appropriate that Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Tuesday’s rollout, because New York City is starting to figure it out. It had no other choice: Between 1994 and 2014, there was a 115-percent increase in homelessness in de Blasio’s city. Knowing that the best way to address homelessness is to prevent it before it occurs, de Blasio formed a coalition under the city’s Office of Civil Justice to provide legal help for tenants facing eviction.

Here’s what they have learned during the phase-in: In the first 10 zip codes chosen for expanded legal help, court representation in eviction cases tripled, and evictions are down 27 percent. The burden on courts also eased: There were 17,000 fewer eviction cases heard in 2017 than in 2013.

In hard numbers, 70,000 New Yorkers have remained in their homes as a result of decreased evictions since right to counsel was initiated.

That’s like saving a medium-sized city from dissolving into despair, because the real-life impact is profound: Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond – whose seminal "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City" won the Pulitzer – reminds us that eviction’s fallout includes "home, possessions, and often your job; being stamped with an eviction record and denied housing assistance; relocating to degrading housing in dangerous neighborhoods; and suffering from increased material hardship, homelessness, depression, and illness."

New York’s success has earned the attention of Gov. Murphy, whose transition team advocated a similar program for the state. We hope he keeps an eye on Newark’s progress, because eviction is no longer a silent epidemic, and its eradication should not depend on the size of a tenant’s wallet.

John Moore/Getty Images
Buildings in Lower Manhattan provide a backdrop to the Katyn Memorial seen from Exchange Place in Jersey City.

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Want to meet Billy and me for lunch?” he asked. He followed with a text dummy post

Z Top at Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas, Oct. 7, 2016. (Edison Graff/Stardust Fallout)
Dusty Hill, left and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top are shown at The Venetian Theater on Friday, April 20, 2018. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal). @JohnnyKats
Ex-New York Yankees great Bernie Williams jams with Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns on Monday, Apr. 23, 2018. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal). @JohnnyKats
Knights’ ‘crazy’ entertainment works — especially when winning
Oscar Goodman in true character in new Mob show
‘Chippendales’ host Tony Dovolani learned of cousin’s death after show
The Joint to celebrate 10th anniversary before Hard Rock work dummy post

Month in Space Pictures: Falling stars and rising rockets

For 28 years, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been delivering breathtaking views of the universe. Although the telescope has made more than 1.5 million observations of over 40,000 space objects, it is still uncovering stunning celestial gems.

The latest offering is this image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on April 19 to celebrate the telescope’s anniversary. Hubble shows this vast stellar nursery in stunning, unprecedented detail. At the center of the photo, a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This region epitomizes a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction.

Spectators watch the launch of a model of the R-7 rocket, a Soviet missile developed during the Cold War and the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, during a celebration of the 57th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first manned spaceflight in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 15.

On April 12, 1961, Gagarin made history at the age of 27 by completing a single orbit of Earth in approximately 108 minutes.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot and surrounding turbulent zones during its 12th close flyby of Jupiter on April 1.

The color-enhanced photo is a combination of three separate images taken when the spacecraft was 15,000 to 30,000 miles from the tops of Jupiter’s clouds.

Images of five galaxies have been stacked together to bring out the details in their spherical, gaseous halos. It was created by a team of scientists using ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory, with the X-ray emission highlighted in purple.

In a bid to explore the outer reaches of galaxies and determine how much matter is lurking there, the team observed six different spiral galaxies and stacked their data together to create one galaxy with the average properties of multiple. By doing this, the faint X-ray emission from the halo surrounding each galaxy became clearer, and emission from background sources easier to identify and discount.

Spring arrived in the United States on March 20, but that did not stop a winter storm from dropping snow across the Upper Midwest a month later.

On April 19, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured this image of the snow dropped by the storm.

A five-minute video, released by NASA on April 9, shows the surface of the moon in stunning, high-definition detail — from high peaks and deep craters to the frigid poles and their possible ice deposits.

The Moon’s Orientale basin, seen here, is a massive crater about the size of Texas.

A central peak sits within the moon’s Tycho crater. The crater is 100 million years old, which is young in geologic time, and a 400-foot boulder, its origins unknown, sits at the summit of the peak.

Like all the moon’s craters, Tycho is thought to have formed when a space rock slammed into the surface.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is wheeled into position in a clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, for pre-launch testing and preparations on April 4.

The probe will be the first-ever mission to "touch" the sun. The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere, about 4 million miles from our star’s surface. Launch is slated for summer 2018.

A picture created from images from telescopes on the ground and in space tells the story of the hunt for an elusive missing object hidden amid a complex tangle of gaseous filaments in one of our nearest neighboring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud.

The reddish background image comes from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and reveals the wisps of gas forming the supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219 in green. The red ring with a dark center is from the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the blue and purple images are from the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The blue spot at the center of the red ring is an isolated neutron star with a weak magnetic field, the first identified outside the Milky Way.

The lab disintegrated under intense heat as it hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere on April 2 and plunged to a watery grave in the South Pacific, Chinese officials said.

China launched Tiangong-1, which translates to "Heavenly Palace," into orbit in 2011. While operational, the prototype space station played host to Chinese astronauts on two separate missions.

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The Billy & Bernie show, played out only in Las Vegas

ZZ Top at Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas, Oct. 7, 2016. (Edison Graff/Stardust Fallout)
Dusty Hill, left and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top are shown at The Venetian Theater on Friday, April 20, 2018. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal). @JohnnyKats
Ex-New York Yankees great Bernie Williams jams with Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns on Monday, Apr. 23, 2018. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal). @JohnnyKats
Knights’ ‘crazy’ entertainment works — especially when winning
Oscar Goodman in true character in new Mob show
‘Chippendales’ host Tony Dovolani learned of cousin’s death after show
The Joint to celebrate 10th anniversary before Hard Rock work

Billy Gibbons asked to check out a video on my phone Tuesday afternoon.

Seem an odd request, yes. But in context, it made perfect sense.

It began when Marklen Kennedy, producer of the reality series “Gigolos” on Showtime and the miniseries “Texas Rising” on History, called unexpectedly.

“Want to meet Billy and me for lunch?” he asked. He followed with a text: “We are at Carlito’s, if you want to join.”

I couldn’t resist a call for burritos with Billy. The legendary guitarist and singer for ZZ Top, has been a friend and confidant of Kennedy’s for 30 years (both grew up in Houston). Gibbons and I have crossed paths a number of times since our First Friday downtown five years ago (including a memorable evening at Slash’s blazing birthday party at Bare Pool at Mirage in 2008 (Franky Perez was the singer that night, with Jason Bonham on drums and guest appearances from Fergie, Perry Farrell and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains before Gibbons took the stage).

Late in our lunch confab at Carlito’s Burritos in Henderson, Gibbons mentioned that he’d heard of the studio facilities at Bootlegger Bistro and adjacent Copa Room, operated by Ronnie Mancuso.

“I was just there last night,” I told Gibbons, explaining that I’d gone to see former New York Yankees all-star Bernie Williams play a three-song jazz set with Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns that wiped the place out.

“I have video, actually,” I said.

“A Yankee?” Gibbons said, grinning. “OK, I have got to see this.”

So we watched Williams’ performance, which marked the second time he’d performed onstage with Santa Fe (the first was a year ago almost to the day at the late Lounge at the Palms). Williams and Santa Fe drummer Pepe Jimenez grew up together in Puerto Rico and studied music at the prestigious Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So @bw51official is planning a gig in #VegasVille. Still taking shape. He and #PepeJimenez of @SantaFeBand grew up together in #PuertoRico.

— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) April 24, 2018

“Aaaah, this is great,” said Gibbons, who is onstage Thursday, Friday and Saturday as ZZ Top closes its five-show run at Venetian Theater. “I am loving this.”

Gibbons is a uniquely humble individual, frequently breaking conversation (and nacho noshing) to meet fellow diners. He walked over to one stunned couple and introduced himself as the real Billy Gibbons. Turns out the guy was in a classic-rock cover band that plays ZZ Top hits; the woman is the cousin of the late Latin artist Selena.

“I love strangers,” Gibbons said. “You learn a lot from them.”

He also shared a story from about 30 years ago, when ZZ Top was about to planning to release its greatest-hits album. Warner Brothers, the band’s label, wanted two additional songs to fill out the release. “A little pretentious of us, right? ‘Greatest Hits, Plus Two!” Gibbons said, laughing.

Gibbons wanted bassist and fellow vocalist Dusty Hill to take on an Elvis tune, because Hill is a notorious Presley devotee.

“Now, at the time, I thought ‘Viva Las Vegas’ was the corniest, worst song ever recorded by Elvis,” Gibbons said. “But I had this little music-making contraption and I programmed the music of ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and it was so appealing, so robust, I had to work with it.” The band was closing a tour at the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport, La. Elvis had played that venue in 1954 and 1955, during the legendary Louisiana Hayride concerts.

“So I told Dusty, ‘I need your vocal charms on this Elvis number that could be a bonus on the greatest hits album,’ ” Gibbons said. “Dusty didn’t want to do it. ‘I’m sooooo tired.’ But when I said, ‘You’re standing in the same dressing room Elvis stood in during the Louisiana Hayride, it’s time for you to sing an Elvis song.’ And doggone it if he didn’t belt it out.”

Gibbons shook his head and added, “The version you hear now, the recording of that song is Dusty singing in that dressing room. It was perfect.”

The band plays “Viva Las Vegas” in its encore at The Venetian. Gibbons and his wife, Gilligan, have recently purchased a home in Rancho Circle. They are renovating the estate, once owned by Brigitte Bardot (and that is another story for another time). They hope to relocate to the city full-time in six months.

“I’m looking forward to getting around and enjoying the town,” Gibbons said. Don’t be surprised to see him at a Santa Fe show.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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PGIM Fixed Income announces leadership changes to its US bank loan team

PGIM Fixed Income today announced that Brian Juliano, managing director, will be named head of the U.S. bank loan portfolio management team upon the retirement of Joe Lemanowicz later this year. Juliano has co-headed the team with Lemanowicz since September 2017. Juliano will continue to report to Robert Cignarella, managing director and head of Global Leveraged Finance.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:


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Juliano will also continue in his role as co-head of the firm’s U.S. CLO business together with Bent Hoyer, and will be a senior portfolio manager for CLO tranches. In his CLO-related capacity, he will continue to report to John Vibert, managing director and head of Structured Products.

Juliano joined the firm in 2000, and became a member of the bank loan team in 2003. Before joining the bank loan team he was a CDO analyst and a member of PGIM Fixed Income’s Financial Management group.

“I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Joe for a distinguished career and thank him for his many contributions to the success of PGIM Fixed Income,” said Head of Fixed Income Mike Lillard. “As part of our succession planning, we are also pleased that Brian will be leading the team as we build on our vision to be widely regarded as a premier, active global fixed income manager.”

About PGIM Fixed Income

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A House You Can Buy, But Never Own

Zachary Anderson says he didn’t know he was entering into a rent-to-own contract when he bought his house in 2011.

ATLANTA—It was not until a few years after he moved in that Zachary Anderson realized he was not, in fact, the owner of the house he thought he’d purchased. Anderson had already spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing a hole in the roof, replacing a cracked sidewalk, and fixing the ceilings of the small two-bedroom home where he lives in southwest Atlanta, when he learned the truth. He was trying to get a reduction in his property taxes when his brother, who was helping him with his taxes, looked up the property in public records and found that the owner of the home was actually listed at Harbour Portfolio VII LP.

“It’s like a trick,” Anderson, 57, told me, sitting in front of a wood-burning fireplace he’d installed in the living room of the house to lower his heating bills. “They get free work out of a lot of people.” Anderson had entered into a contract for deed, a type of transaction that was rampant in the 1950s and 1960s before African Americans had access to avenues of conventional lending. In a contract for deed, the buyer purchases an agreement for the deed, rather than buying the deed itself. The tenant has to fulfill the conditions of the agreement in order to get the deed, conditions that usually include making a series of timely payments over decades, paying for home repairs and general maintenance of the home, and paying taxes and insurance on the property. If he misses one payment, thus violating the agreement, he can be evicted, losing all the equity he put into the home.

Though half-a-century ago, contract for deed arrangements were often made between an individual real estate speculator and a tenant, today they are more commonly made between a tenant and a big private investment company, like Harbour Portfolio Advisors, which is based in Texas and has entered into thousands of contract for deed arrangements across the country.

My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates detailed contract for deed arrangements—also called rent-to-own deals—in his 2014 cover story, “The Case for Reparations,” which looked at the prevalence such arrangements in 1950s Chicago. What is surprising today is that, according to some housing advocates, these arrangements are in some ways even more predatory than the ones of half a century ago, even after decades of laws and regulations enacted to prevent racial discrimination in the housing market. “It was bad in the mid-20th century, but it is even worse now,” said Beryl Satter, a history professor at Rutgers University-Newark who wrote Family Properties, a book on the history of predatory lending in Chicago, about contract-for-deed arrangements. “The housing is in way worse shape, the markups are grotesque, and these people have been through multiple forms of credit exploitation, which is partially why they’re in this market.”

Through its lawyer, Harbour contested the idea that these contracts are exploitative. “It is simply not true that any of these agreements were predatory in nature,” David K. Stein, a lawyer for Harbour, told me. Instead, he said, contract for deed arrangements, which have been legal for centuries, give families the opportunity to own a home who might not otherwise have that chance.

Contract for deed arrangements in today’s housing market came under scrutiny more recently when the New York Times reported in 2016 on how low-income buyers in Ohio were entering into these agreements, and then losing the homes. Soon afterwards, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it had assigned two enforcement lawyers to look into whether contract-for-deed transactions violate federal truth in lending laws. But now, advocates in Atlanta are raising another issue with contract for deed arrangements—alleging that they are racially discriminatory and that they violate the Fair Housing Act, along with various other state and federal laws. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court last year, a group of plaintiffs represented by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society allege that Harbour Portfolio, the group that owns the home where Zachary Anderson lives, specifically targeted African American neighborhoods with its contract for deed products. This violates the Fair Housing Act, the lawsuit argues, because it markets a predatory loan product specifically to African Americans. “Basically, what they were counting on is that people who were not already familiar with the home-buying process would be taken in by the American dream of owning a home,” Kristen Tullos, a lawyer for Atlanta Legal Aid, told me. Harbour moved to dismiss the case, but last month, a judge ruled that most of the Plaintiffs’ claims (including their core Fair Housing Act claim) in the case could go forward.

The Fair Housing Act, enacted exactly 50 years ago on April 11, 1968, makes it illegal to deny housing or loans to people in residential real estate transactions on the basis of race. Subsequent cases have also found that targeting bad loan products at certain racial groups—a practice known as “reverse redlining”—also discriminates the Fair Housing Act. If contract for deed agreements are found, by a judge, to be aimed at African American neighborhoods, it will be evidence that the country has returned to the untenable position where it was half a century ago.

In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans were prohibited from borrowing through traditional means, so they entered into contract for deed arrangements, which left them with little equity to pass on to their children. This had long-lasting effects—African Americans still have, on average, much lower credit scores than whites, in part because they didn’t have the means of building wealth through homeownership that whites had. In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, banks started lending more to African American buyers, but these buyers were frequently targeted by subprime loans with high interest payments and terms that were difficult to fulfill. (African American borrowers were 76 percent more likely than white borrowers to have lost their homes to foreclosure during the recession, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.) Now that many African Americans in cities like Atlanta were foreclosed on during the subprime crisis, many of them have bad credit as a result—which means they can’t buy homes the traditional way, and so are being offered contract for deed payments once again.

This tees up another cycle of debt and lost equity in the housing market, and in the larger economy that could continue to drag down the very people that the law of half a century ago had tried to protect.

* * *

Zachary Anderson has worked all his life, but he has never owned a home. For decades, he was a mechanic for the city of East Point, a predominantly African American suburb of Atlanta, making good money, but never enough to save up for a big down payment. This is not unusual: black households overall have less savings than white ones, in part because of historical practices that prevented them from building equity. While the typical white household could replace almost 10 months of income if they liquidated all their financial accounts, the typical black household could replace only 23 days, according to a 2015 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

It was in 2010, while he was still working, living in a small apartment in the College Park area of Atlanta, that Anderson started seeing the signs around East Point. “SALE,” they read, in big red letters, and then listed the amounts buyers would have to put down—often as low as $700—and the amount they’d have to pay per month—often as low as $375—for the homes along the block. Anderson, sick of his cramped apartment and of hearing his neighbors’ every move, called the number listed on the sign and asked if they had any other houses in Atlanta. They referred him to a website that listed some of the homes, so Anderson went out and bought a computer so that he could start looking.

He eventually found a house he could afford in the Capitol View neighborhood of Atlanta, and the company gave him the code to a lock on the door that would enable him to get into the house and look around. The home, a small bungalow, was a fixer-upper. There was a hole in the roof, no stove or refrigerator, and tree branches invading the property. But Anderson knew how to work with his hands. He could put his own time and money into fixing up the home, he thought, which made it a good deal. The money he had to pay monthly, at $495, was less than he was paying in rent at the time. After a $1,000 deposit, he was told, the home, worth $46,750, would be his. (Harbour’s attorney declined to comment on the experiences of Anderson or any other specific individual.)

The contract, sent to him in the mail, also required that he paid all taxes on the property and kept the property insured. If he failed to make any of the agreed-upon payments, the contract said, he would forfeit all the money he had paid to the seller. He signed and initialed the contract in front of a notary, and sent it back to the company. A little while later, he received a letter in the mail congratulating him on becoming a homeowner. He could move in once he changed the locks, it said. He never met a single person from Harbour throughout the whole process.

Of course, it could be argued that Anderson should have known better to enter into this type of contract, that he should have read the fine print. That he should have persevered until he could buy a home the traditional way. Harbour’s lawyer told me the individuals were provided “full disclosure” of the nature of the arrangement before they even first visited the homes. “It would be impossible for any reasonable person to not understand the nature of the transaction,” Stein said. But Anderson had never bought a home before. He didn’t know that this wasn’t the traditional way homes were sold. “I thought I went and bought a house,” he told me. He thought he had just stumbled across a deal.

He also didn’t know how difficult it would be to keep up the terms of the contract, because he didn’t realize just how much work the house would need. There is no requirement that a home inspector look at the house before a contract for deed agreement is signed. When Harbour told him he needed to get insurance, he says, the insurance company started sending him problems with the house that he didn’t even know existed—one document he showed me, for example, informed him that his “rake board,” which is a piece of wood near his eaves, was showing deterioration.

Harbour Portfolio Properties in DeKalb County, Georgia
This map, included in the Legal Aid complaint, shows the racial composition of the areas where Harbour Properties are located in one Atlanta county (Credit: Atlanta Legal Aid Society)

There is nothing inherently wrong with contract-for-deed arrangements, says Satter, whose father, Mark Satter, helped organize Chicago residents against the practice in the 1950s. Sellers can finance properties instead of a bank in a fair way, she said. A San Francisco start-up called Divvy, for instance, is testing a rent-to-own model in Ohio and Georgia that gives would-be buyers some equity in the home, even if they default on payments. But there are two reasons these contract for deed agreements seem particularly unfair, Satter said. First, the homes that many of these companies buy are in terrible condition—many had been vacant for years before being purchased, unlike the homes sold for contract for deed in the 1950s, which frequently had been left behind by white homeowners fleeing to the suburbs. Fixer uppers make it even more difficult for would-be buyers to fulfill all the terms of their contracts, because the houses need so much work.

And second, Satter said, many of these companies are aggressively targeting neighborhoods where residents struggle with credit because of past predatory lending practices such as the subprime mortgage crisis. “We’re watching private equity firms coming in and cleaning up, finishing the job of destroying these communities,” she said.

In some ways, the concentration of contract for deed properties in African American neighborhoods is a logical outgrowth of what happened during the housing boom and bust. The lending market ran amuck, allowing banks to offer subprime loans and other financial products to people who otherwise might not have access to home loans. Often, these products charged exorbitantly high interest rates and targeted African Americans. One study found that between 2004 and 2007, African Americans were 105 percent more likely than white buyers to have high cost mortgages for home purchases, even when controlling for credit score and other risk factors. When many of these people lost their homes, the banks took them over. Those that did not sell at auction—often those in predominantly African American neighborhoods where people with capital did not want to go—ended up in the portfolio of Fannie Mae, which had insured the mortgage loan. (These are so-called REO, or “real estate owned” homes, because the lender possessed them after failing to sell them at a foreclosure auction.) Fannie Mae then offered these homes up at low prices to investors who wanted to buy them, such as Harbour.

But Legal Aid alleges that Harbour’s presence in Atlanta’s African American neighborhoods is more than happenstance. By choosing to only buy homes from Fannie Mae, the lawsuit says, Harbour ended up with homes in areas that experienced the largest amount of foreclosures, which are the same communities targeted by subprime mortgage lenders—communities of color. Even the Fannie Mae homes Harbour purchased were in distinctly African American neighborhoods, the lawsuit alleges. The average racial composition of the census tracts in Fulton and DeKalb counties where Harbour purchased was more than 86 percent African American. Other buyers in the same counties that purchased Fannie Mae REO properties bought in census tracts that were 71 percent African American, the lawsuit says. Harbour also targeted its products at African Americans, the lawsuit argues. It did not market its contract for deed arrangements in newspapers, on the radio, or on television in Atlanta, the suit says. Instead, Harbour put up signs in African American neighborhoods and gave referral bonuses, a practice which, the lawsuit alleges, meant that it was mostly African Americans who heard about Harbour’s offer.

In its motion to dismiss the case, Harbour contests the idea that it targeted African Americans with predatory loans. Harbour’s practices of putting up “for sale” signs and encouraging people to refer friends to the company “are more accurately characterized as no marketing plan at all,” Harbour’s motion argues. What’s more, the process of buying up Fannie Mae homes and selling them on contract for deed arrangements does not immediately mean that Harbour was targeting a minority population, Harbour argues—in other words, Harbour is not the reason that so many of these homes were located in census tracts with a large number of minorities. “It’s not accurate that any one group was targeted,” Stein told me. Harbour bought homes from the government, he said, and didn’t have a choice where they were located. Additionally, he said, Harbour sold them “in a fair matter, and did so without any discriminatory or predatory practices or targeting.”

Still, Heather K. Way, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told me that she thought Legal Aid had a “strong” case. Though the Fair Housing Act was initially aimed at prohibiting behaviors like redlining that that prevent minorities from ending up in certain neighborhoods, a series of lawsuits in recent decades have led to another type of discrimination being prohibited under the law. “Reverse redlining,” for example, consists of marketing certain products to a protected class, like African Americans. In 2000, for example, a judge found that a mortgage company had violated the Fair Housing Act by marketing unfair loans to African Americans in Washington, D.C.“Under the Fair Housing Act, you can’t intentionally target communities of color with these predatory lending products,” Way told me.

The contract for deed arrangements are predatory products, Legal Aid says. Harbour charges interest rates of around 10 percent, more than double the interest rates being charged for traditional mortgages, and it sells the homes for four to five times what it paid for them, the lawsuit says, even though the company does not invest money into fixing up the homes. The contracts are designed to fail, Tullos, the Legal Aid lawyer, said, because they require tenants to do so many repairs so rapidly.

Zachary Anderson entered into a contract for deed agreement for this home in southwest Atlanta (Alana Semuels / The Atlantic)

Anderson’s contract, for example, required that he make his property “habitable” within four months. This turned out to be an expensive proposition. He repaired the roof, cut the limbs hanging over the house, repaired the sidewalk, and shored up the roof in the back where it was falling in, he told me. He installed a hot water tank and bought a stove and refrigerator, he said. Since then, he’s also lowered the ceilings to retain some of the heat—his initial electricity bills were around $500 a month—put in a new fence, painted the house, replaced the windows, installed a new fireplace, put a screen on the porch, and added solar panels. He estimates that he’s spent $35,000 on the house. “It was just a really incredibly predatory contract in the way it was structured,” Tullos told me. “They transferred incredible burdens onto someone who was not actually a homeowner.”

When Anderson looked recently, he said, his Harbour account showed that he still owed the company $43,000, just one hundred dollars or so less than he’d owed in 2011, because such a high share of his payments go to interest.

Anderson was injured at work in 2012, and retired earlier than he’d expected, he told me. He now received disability payments of about $650 a month, he said. About $500 of those payments goes to Harbour, and the rest goes to the electricity company and the water company. He’s on food stamps and often has to borrow money from relatives in order to keep making payments on the house. When he was in the hospital after being injured and he missed a payment, Harbour told him it was going to evict him, he told me. But he caught up on the payments, and he’s determined not to let Harbour have the house back. He’s put too much work and money into it to lose it.

He is still current on his payments, but many of the plaintiffs in the Legal Aid case have fallen behind and are facing eviction. This is common in contract for deed agreements—nearly half of borrowers tracked over a 21-year period had defaulted and their contracts were cancelled, according to a study prepared for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Fewer than 20 percent of would-be buyers had actually received the deed to the property.

* * *

The Fair Housing Act was a long time coming. The Civil Rights Act, passed four years before, had outlawed discrimination in the workplace and in public facilities, and sought to end school segregation. But it had excluded language about housing, and discrimination in housing was still a pervasive problem even after that bill’s passage. Newly introduced fair housing legislation was stymied by filibuster in 1966 and died in committee in 1967. It was not until the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. that President Lyndon Johnson had enough political capital to push a fair housing bill through Congress.

In some ways, the Fair Housing Act allowed the country to make great strides in integration, implementing policies that sought to help families of color access high-opportunity neighborhoods and that helped create more affordable housing. But the long legacy of discrimination in housing mean that there’s still a lot of inequality to overcome. The homeownership rate for African American households is now hovering around 42 percent, according to census data, compared to a white homeownership rate of 72 percent. “Ultimately, it’s not like we’ve taken real steps to stop predatory lending based on race,” Beryl Satter told me.

Americans are told homeownership is a pillar of the American Dream, yet it’s a dream that remains largely out of reach for certain groups of people. That’s why so many people like Zachary Anderson end up in these terrible deals. He told me that he doesn’t regret signing the contract with Harbor, even though he recognizes how unfair it is. He even says he’d sign the paperwork again, knowing that he would have to put thousands of dollars into the home and could still be evicted if he misses a single payment.

Despite the shock of learning that he isn’t actually the owner, he loves his little green house, and is still working on it, installing new flooring, painting the fence, fixing the shed. This initially surprised me—the contract for deed seemed like such a bad deal, why would anyone be willing to enter into such an arrangement knowingly? But Anderson likes having his own place to repair and fix, to style as he wants. He still dreams of the day he’ll own it outright—a friend won the lottery and paid off his contract for deed agreement, and Anderson hopes that will someday happen to him too. It’s the only way he could ever own a house. For Anderson, and many other people like him, even 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, a bad deal on a home is probably the only deal he’s going to get.

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