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100-year-old WWII vet fights to stay in his longtime Brooklyn home — and wins

Posted at 7:01 AM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 09:01:51-04

NEW YORK — An Army veteran who just celebrated his 100th birthday won a fight to stay in his Brooklyn home on Tuesday.

James Been served in World War II as a radio operator and celebrated his milestone birthday on June 19.

Been has lived in a brownstone on Halsey Street in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood since 1927, and he says the house has been in his family for generations.

Been has lived an extraordinary life. During the war, he served in an all-Black regiment known as the Harlem Hell Fighters.

"I served in the 93rd Division in the South Pacific against the Japanese from 1942 to 1946. Instead of buses, there were buggies going downtown here. It's a wonderful feeling to remember those historic events," Been said.

Last year, Been was shocked to find out there was a foreclosure case filed against him.

He said he couldn't repay a $100,000 home equity loan he secured in 2006 when he was 84.

Belinda Luu, Been's lawyer, works with an organization called Mobilization for Justice. She said it was "wrong" that Been was being forced out of his home.

"There are so many mostly Black homeowners who have built these communities, like Bed-Stuy, and they are being pushed out," she said.

Thankfully for Been, the case against him won't continue. A JPMorgan Chase spokesperson delivered the good news to him on Tuesday.

"Mr. Been will not be evicted from his home. We are committed to honoring those who have served," the company said.

But Councilmember Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn said Been's story represents a much bigger problem for vulnerable seniors.

"There are hundreds — probably thousands — of people like Been, but they don't want to come forward. They are embarrassed," Cornegy said.

Cornegy said he's fighting to keep the money in the city's budget for deed theft prevention and foreclosure prevention to help protect seniors at risk of losing their homes.

This story was originally published by Monica Morales on WPIX in New York City.