Senators Klein & Bailey, Mayor Thomas, Unveil ?Nightmare Neighbor Task Force? to Identify & Take Action on Abandoned Properties in Mount Vernon

Industry Update
October 16, 2017

New report shows the adverse effect of bank-owned, zombie and abandoned properties on home values in Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, NYSenators Jeff Klein and Jamaal Bailey, joined by Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, unveiled the ‘Nightmare Neighbor Task Force’ and new legislation to address the effects of bank-owned, zombie and abandoned properties in Mount Vernon.

The officials also released a new investigative report, “Nightmare Neighbors: How Badly Maintained Homes Damage Neighborhoods,” detailing the negative impact bank-owned, zombie and abandoned properties have on neighborhood home values.

“The foreclosure crisis continues to negatively impact neighborhoods in Mount Vernon. We have made great strides in eliminating zombie properties and holding financial institutions liable for the properties they own, however there is still more to do. This joint task force and legislation will help Mount Vernon home owners maintain their home values and quality of life,” said Senator Klein.

“According to a report compiled by Senator Klein and I, the City of Mount Vernon has suffered significant depreciation in property value, as well as a loss of much needed tax revenue due to the prevalence of zombie, foreclosed or abandoned properties in the city. Our task force, along with residents and leaders of this community will be vitally important in highlighting these properties and restoring these homes and neighborhoods accordingly. I want to thank Senator Klein for all his work on this issue, and with new legislation; we will be able to hold banks even more accountable for properties they own, and most importantly, held accountable in the communities that they do business in.,” said Senator Bailey.

“We must slay these zombie structures that are haunting Mount Vernon and eating away at property values. We know how dangerous these buildings can be but as Senator Klein and Bailey clearly show, the effect on our property values is unacceptable. Even before I took office, I advocated to the City Council that we allocate funds to tear these zombies down and invest in building Mount Vernon up.  Mount Vernon homeowners have lost millions to these eyesores and it’s time for that to stop. This is why my administration invested over $900,000 in rehabbing homes, reclaiming these abandoned eyesores, and seeing new homes rise again. This is the recipe for revitalization, and the proposed legislation will provide an essential ingredient for neighborhood transformation. We are encouraged by Senator Klein and Bailey’s advocacy for cleaning up Mount Vernon and I urge my colleagues in government to join us in tearing these structures down to build a new American dream.,” said Mayor Thomas.

In the fall of 2017, the offices of Senators Jeff Klein and Jamaal Bailey conducted a study to determine how bank-owned, zombie and abandoned properties in Mount Vernon affected the surrounding property values. In doing so, staff members discovered numerous properties that appeared abandoned, however weren’t identified as zombie houses through the Department of Financial Services (DFS) registry or bank-owned through the Office of the Assessor for the City of Mount Vernon.

In order to better keep track of any vacant properties, whether it be a zombie home, bank-owned home or an abandoned home, the two offices unveiled a new joint Nightmare Neighbor Task Force. To better track vacant homes throughout the city, constituents can call into either office to report them. Both offices will identify the owner, remind them of the duty to maintain under New York State law and work to clean up each property. If that property is not cleaned up, the offices will work with the Mayor of Mount Vernon and his administration to appropriately fine those responsible for maintenance and remediate the property and seek reimbursements.

Based on the office’s findings of bank-owned, publicly listed zombie properties and abandoned properties, which are vacant homes with an unknown owner, the offices released a shocking report, “Nightmare Neighbors: How Badly Maintained Homes Damage Neighborhoods,” which detailed how each type of property drastically depreciates the value or surrounding homes.

The investigation uncovered 21 bank-owned properties in Mount Vernon that impacted 764 surrounding homes for a total depreciation value of $3.5 million. The ten zombie properties identified affected 396 nearby homes, causing a combined $1.7 million in depreciation. Lastly, the six abandoned properties accounted for a total loss of $1.04 million. The abandoned properties included in this report are homes that were observed to be vacant and in disrepair through site visits.

In order to combat the blight of bank-owned, zombie and abandoned homes, and to ensure the responsible owner maintains the property, Senators Klein and Bailey proposed new legislation to tackle the issue. Under existing New York State Law, banks are required to register pre-foreclosed zombie properties into the DFS registry. This is a critical tool for local governments, as they can easily locate the owner of neglected zombie property to enforce their duty to maintain. The officials proposed new legislation to expand the tracking tool to include all post-foreclosure bank-owned properties into the DFS registry, enabling local governments to track all bank-owned properties, both pre and post-foreclosure.

A separate proposal would expand the existing $500 fine banks incur from local municipalities or DFS when they fail to maintain zombie properties. Under the new proposal, even post-foreclosure bank-owned properties could be penalized $500 per day for failure to maintain. The banks would also be fined for failing to register their post-foreclosed properties.

The third component of the legislative solution will be to advocate for $5 million for DFS in the upcoming state budget. This funding would enable localities to hire code enforcement officers to track vacant and abandoned properties and monitor the bank’s compliance with the 2009 and 2016 laws. The money could also be used to hire attorneys to bring enforcement actions and fines against the banks for lack of compliance. DFS would also be responsible to step up their enforcement of these zombie and bank-owned homes.

Source: Office of New York Senator Jeffrey D. Klein (full news release)

Additional Resource:

New York State Senate (Nightmare Neighbors: How Badly Maintained Homes Damage Neighborhoods full report)



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.