NYC Eviction Business Good As Foreclosures Persist For the third month in a row, more than 300,000 homes went into foreclosure. And for those who have to carry out evictions, throwing people out of their homes is a stressful and dangerous job.
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NYC Eviction Business Good As Foreclosures Persist

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NYC Eviction Business Good As Foreclosures Persist

NYC Eviction Business Good As Foreclosures Persist

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And as we've just heard, part of the shadow market involves foreclosed homes, and foreclosure rates are actually worse now than a few months ago, with rising unemployment making it more difficult for homeowners to meet their mortgage payments. For those who carry out evictions, throwing people out of their homes is a stressful and occasionally dangerous job.

NPR's Alisa Chang has this profile of a woman who is building a successful career evicting people in New York City.

(Soundbite of banging)

ALISA CHANG: This is a walk Ileana Rivera has done thousands of times. Today, it's an apartment, a fourth floor walk-up way uptown Manhattan.

(Soundbite of banging)

CHANG: For the past three years, Rivera has done about 25 evictions a day, but she never knows what's going to be behind the door each time. This is a scary part.

(Soundbite of knocking)

Ms. ILEANA RIVERA (City Marshal, New York City): Hello, city marshal.

CHANG: No one answers, so Rivera starts picking the lock.

(Soundbite of clacking sound)

CHANG: But she's still listening for people inside.

Ms. RIVERA: I smell a dog. I don't hear a dog, but I smell a dog.

CHANG: The lock won't give, so Rivera starts prying the whole lock off. Her driver is a large, burly guy named Tony, who doesn't talk much. As the door opens, Tony stands closer to Rivera. His eyes never leave the doorway.

Ms. RIVERA: Hello. City marshal.

CHANG: This time, they're lucky. No one's at home.

Ms. RIVERA: You know, if we ever feel we're threatened, we walk away. We definitely walk away. We call the police department, because we're not here to arrest people or to make any type of problems. We're just here to execute warrants.

CHANG: When you look at her, the last thing you think is this is a woman who throws people out of their homes every day. Rivera's in her early 30s, barely 5-foot-2, and nearly always smiling. Then you look down and see a black handgun on her hip, right next to her cell phone.

Ms. RIVERA: I get a lot of, you're the marshal? That's what I get. And it's like, you know, if I have a driver with me, they'll talk to him before they talk to me. And I'm like, hi. I'm over here - the one with the badge. Yes, that's me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHANG: In other counties, deputy sheriffs or constables carry out evictions. They're law enforcement types. They're paid by the government. In New York City, marshals are technically public officials. They're appointed and regulated by the city, but they don't get a city salary. They're like bouncers-for-hire - private entrepreneurs who are paid directly by landlords and lenders that need to carry out evictions. For Rivera, it's a business. But some think it's a nasty business.

Unidentified Group: Stop evictions now. Stop evictions now.

CHANG: The advocacy group ACORN has been demonstrating outside marshals' offices. They're calling for a one-year moratorium on all foreclosures in the state. They want city marshals to stop evictions immediately. ACORN member Jean-Andre Sassine says a city marshal has the power to help reverse the housing crisis.

Mr. JEAN-ANDRE SASSINE (ACORN member): He's paid. He's a contractor. He doesn't have to execute an order. He can pass it on to the next guy, and if they keep passing it on and passing it on, then it doesn't get followed through and these people get to keep their homes. And the reality is…

CHANG: When Rivera later heard that suggestion, she just shook her head. That's like telling the IRS not to collect taxes.

Ms. RIVERA: We're just the middleman. We're just there to do a job.

CHANG: She says people forget eviction orders come from judges, not marshals. By the time she knocks on the door, an eviction case has been in court for months.

Ms. RIVERA: Everybody sees us as, you know, we're the messenger of misery. How could you do this? How could you do that job? That's such a nasty or horrible job. And, you know, and I get a lot of, you know, what about my children, you know, when I'm doing evictions, and they're parents with little kids. And I just simply have to tell them, look, your kids are your responsibility, not mine.

CHANG: Rivera's own mother thought her daughter would never be able to stomach her new career.

Ms. RIVERA: She goes, you'll never be able to do this job. You have a great heart, she would tell me. This is not for you.

CHANG: It is good money. Rivera's eviction work doubled last year, reaching about a thousand cases. She wouldn't say how much she earns in a year, but the city says most marshals make a hefty six figures. A few even make millions. Rivera says she's grateful to have this job, even if she hates telling people what she actually does for a living.

Ms. RIVERA: I don't tell anybody I'm a New York city marshal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RIVERA: And my son - he's - I told him…

CHANG: What do you tell him?

Ms. RIVERA: I just tell him, you know, I say, if anybody asks you what your mom does, just tell them to come and talk to me.

CHANG: She tells them she's a secretary.

Ailsa Chang, NPR News.

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