Please write a 200 words discussion paragraph and 150 words comment / response

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Please write a 200 words discussion paragraph by following the description below and a 150 words comment / response to the words file. Thank you

In the NYT articles, we read about the housing crisis. We also know that the city government is privatizing public lands including NYCHA buildings. The process of privatization goes hand in hand with gentrification of a neighborhood. The following two articles from Daily News report lead poisoning in NYCHA buildings.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-metro-nycha...

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-lead-po...

Is it racist to allow NYCHA to poison children of color? Or, is it simply a failure of the government and lack of funding that is not racist? Can the latter be racist? How do you define racism in the context of lead poisoning?

5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times UNSHELTERED Behind New York¡s Housing https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Crisis: Weakened Laws New York and Fragmented Regulation Affordable housing is vanishing as landlords exploit a broken system, pushing out rent-regulated tenants and catapulting apartments into the free market. By KIM BARKER MAY 20, 2018 The assault began shortly after a new owner bought the building at 25 Grove Street in June 2015. Surveillance cameras arrived first, pointed at the doors to rent-regulated apartments. Then came the construction workers, who gutted empty units and sent a dust cocktail of lead-based paint, brick and who knows what else throughout the building. Worried, a pregnant woman and her husband left, dooming their apartment to the demolition derby. Violations were issued; violations were dismissed. And on a Friday morning in early August 2016, Temma Tainow, who had lived in the West Village building for 34 years, was jarred awake by what sounded like an explosion. She stumbled into her kitchen and screamed. A leg dangled from a hole punched through her ceiling. “I think it is imprinted on my brain forever: looking up and seeing five men staring down through the hole,” recalled Ms. Tainow, 70, a tiny therapist with a halo of reddish-brown hair who speaks deliberately and walks with a slow limp. “It’s been awful. It’s been a nightmare. It’s exactly what the owner wants.” U N S H  LT  R  D Articles in this series examine New York's broken system for protecting tenants and affordable apartments. Part 1: The Vanishing Affordable Apartment Part 2: The Eviction Machine https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 1/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Part 3: 69,000 Housing Crises What You Need to Know as a New York Tenant https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Across much of New York City, construction scenes like these play out New York regularly at buildings with rent-regulated apartments — the city’s largest stock of affordable housing, where rents are set at a prescribed level and are supposed to increase only a small amount each year. These apartments — seen as the scourge of landlords and the salvation of struggling New Yorkers — are at the center of a housing crisis that has swelled the ranks of the homeless and threatens to squeeze all but the affluent from ever-wider swaths of the city. But even as Mayor Bill de Blasio has made adding more affordable housing a signature pledge of his administration, the system that protects the city’s roughly one million regulated apartments is profoundly broken, a New York Times investigation has found. In neighborhoods already gentrified or in the throes of gentrifying, a relatively new class of mega-landlords has driven up rents by exploiting enforcement gaps in a web of city and state agencies. By churning through enough tenants and claiming enough renovations, landlords can raise the rent enough — beyond $2,733.75 a month — to wrest an apartment from regulation’s grip and into the free market. What You Need to Know a a Tenant New York’s housing system can be complicated to navigate. Here’s a quick primer on what your rights are and how to exercise them. New York is among the global boomtowns, like London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where skyrocketing rents — and the struggle to shelter those who can’t afford them — have struck a deep political chord. But New York grapples with its own peculiar contradictions. It has the nation’s largest rent-regulation system. On paper at least, it still has some of the most robust tenant protections, bolstered by new city laws https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 2/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times designed to fight tenant harassment and give poor tenants free legal representation in housing court. (Rea d a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e com m a ndeer ed the hou sing https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 cou r t sy stem to pu sh a pa r tm ents into the fr ee m a r k et, in Pa r t 2 of New this York ser ies.) Yet without more fundamental change — especially in the basic laws governing rent increases — regulated apartments in New York are in danger of vanishing, one by one. It is happening already: Since city and state lawmakers started gutting the rent laws in 1993, the city has lost over 152,000 regulated apartments because landlords have pushed the rent too high. At least 130,000 more have disappeared because of co-op and condo conversions, expiring tax breaks and other factors. And while government officials say the losses have slowed, even regulated apartments are becoming increasingly unaffordable. In some ways, this is an age-old story: New York has been in some form of housing crisis for a century. Landlords and tenants have battled for at least that long. But over the last 25 years, the balance of power has been reordered by a confluence of factors: that progressive weakening of the rent laws, an immensely profitable free market driven by a surging local economy, and the evolution of the rental real estate business, with momand-pop operations increasingly subsumed by Landlord Inc. In the face of these changes, the regulators are simply overmatched. The regulatory apparatus is fractionalized, divided among three city and state agencies. It is also essentially passive, The Times found. So state regulators, relying on outdated technology, do not systematically check whether a landlord found to have overcharged one tenant regularly does the same to others. City regulators do not investigate whether an owner who has illegally gutted apartments in one building might be doing the same elsewhere. And if building inspectors fail twice to get inside to investigate complaints of illegal construction, they don’t return a third time; the complaint is tossed out. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 3/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times At the same time, the city’s housing court, mired in chaos, cannot reliably weed out frivolous and abusive lawsuits. (Go inside B r ook ly n’s hou sing cou r t, la st stop on the r oa d to https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 ev iction, in Pa r t 3 .) New York The Times interviewed more than 200 tenants, housing activists and government employees; reviewed thousands of pages of court records and building permits; and examined several government databases. In place of regulatory muscle, The Times found, the system relies on trust: trust that landlords do the right thing, trust that architects and engineers submit accurate permit applications, trust that landlords report rental histories correctly, trust that eviction suits are legitimate. It also places the burden of investigation on tenants. They must ask for their apartments’ rental histories and determine their accuracy, complain about building permits, and sue over harassment. Holding on to an affordable apartment can turn into a part-time job, not to mention a fulltime obsession. Agencies rarely take action unless someone complains, and it can take time. In 2015, tenants who filed rent-overcharge complaints waited nearly two years on average for a resolution. Landlords are hardly all bad, and smaller ones often struggle to pay their bills. But the new corporate landlords scoop up buildings with rentregulated tenants, aiming to “unlock value” promised by the free market. In advertisements, brokers describe buildings with phrases like “significant upside” and “great potential for increase.” One developer, Icon Realty Management, displayed a neon art piece for a time that preached, “Don’t make sense make dollars.” To breach the $2,733.75 threshold, mega-landlords and aspiring ones tend to follow the same playbook: After buying a building, they try to get tenants in regulated apartments to leave, often offering buyouts or harassing them with poor services or eviction suits. Once an apartment is empty, they tack on allowed vacancy increases. They often also perform renovations, enabling them to raise the rent even further while annoying the remaining neighbors, sometimes to the point of prompting them to leave. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 4/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Some landlords willfully flout the rules, The Times found. Applying for construction permits, they say buildings have no occupied apartments when they do. They inflate the cost of renovations or claim the work will be only minor when it is major. Or they falsely claim to have performed https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 renovations, knowing that the state asks for proof only when a new tenant New York complains. If regulators catch on to one trick, landlords find another. It’s like a giant game of Whac-a-Mole. Punishment, if there is any, is seen as the cost of doing business, often a minor fine in the course of a multimillion-dollar development deal. In 2007, a developer named Ben Shaoul and his partners, private equity firms, bought 17 East Village buildings for $97.5 million. They then included false statements on almost every building permit application, enabling them to skirt tenant-protection requirements. In about six years, Mr. Shaoul, nicknamed “The Sledgehammer” by a real estate blog after he was photographed with a sledgehammer-wielding construction crew, cut the number of the most common kind of regulated apartments to 54 from 157, tax bills show. Nothing ever happened to him or his partners, even though lying on an application is a crime. In an interview, Mr. Shaoul said his company renovated buildings left untouched for decades and deregulated them properly. “The idea was to increase rents,” Mr. Shaoul said, adding that his company no longer purchased buildings with regulated apartments. “That was the business plan. That was the intent. It’s America.” In 2013, Mr. Shaoul and his partners sold the buildings for $130.2 million, making a tidy profit. The buyer was a joint venture involving companies controlled by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and now White House adviser. The Sunet of Regulation In late 1992, Steven Croman, only 26, bought his first tenement building, a five-story walk-up at 221 Mott Street. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 5/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times The block was a slice of old, but ever-evolving, New York. Though still considered part of Little Italy, the neighborhood was by then largely Chinese. Eighteen of its 36 buildings had rent-regulated apartments, 261 units in all. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Beginning in the 1920s, New York experimented with regulation to battle a New York chronically low vacancy rate. Advocates argued that regulation maintained a stable housing stock and limited runaway rents. Landlords countered that regulation increased rents of unregulated apartments, restricted building upkeep and discouraged new construction. By the 1980s, the city had two types of regulated apartments: rentcontrolled and rent-stabilized. Rent-controlled apartments, with strict rules and extremely low rents, were being phased out, so most regulated apartments were stabilized, with annual increases set by a board and a menu of tenant protections. Many were stabilized according to the traditional criteria: built before 1974, with six or more units. Others, stabilized through tax-benefit programs, often had much higher initial rents and could be deregulated after a certain time. There had always been landlords who tried to drive tenants out of regulated apartments. In the 1980s, a few moved in drug dealers and prostitutes to harass tenants. One landlord couple legendarily roamed the halls with snarling pit bulls. Several earned tabloid nicknames: Dracula Landlord, Reptile Landlord. But these were generally small landlords, limited in what they could legally accomplish. Mr. Croman had good timing. New York was emerging from the dark days of the 1970s and ’80s, when boarded-up buildings pockmarked many neighborhoods. Rents climbed with demand. Within a year of Mr. Croman’s first big purchase, the rent-stabilization laws started crumbling, largely through the efforts of a well-organized real estate lobby and a group of sympathetic politicians, many of whom benefited from the industry’s campaign contributions. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 6/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times They were led by one of the state’s most powerful men, Joseph L. Bruno, an upstate Republican senator who would compare the effects of rent control to the devastation of an atom bomb. A narrative of the undeserving tenant took hold, encapsulated in the not entirely mythical $400-a-month fourhttps://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 bedroom on Central Park West. New York Previously, the only legal way to significantly increase the rent of a regulated apartment had been to pass on the cost of renovations. In the 1990s, though, landlords won concession after concession in Albany. If renters’ incomes passed a certain threshold, their apartments could be deregulated. When a tenant left, the landlords could increase the rent by about 20 percent. Rent overcharge complaints had to be filed within four years of the increase. And most crucially, if the rent was pushed high enough — initially $2,000 a month — the apartment could be deregulated forever. Mr. Croman recruited a certain kind of tenant: college students, young Wall Street workers, people who cycled through quickly, enabling repeated vacancy increases. Mr. Croman pressured longtime tenants, first offering minimal buyouts, then bringing frivolous eviction suits and harassing them with nerve-racking construction, according to tenants and advocates. Once empty, the apartments moved through the renovation mill, emerging as glass-and-exposed-brick confections, often with cramped bedrooms, primed for more roommates and higher rents. In 1998, The Village Voice named him to its 10 worst landlords list. He bought more buildings. Almost organically, a similar class of landlords rose up, always looking for buildings with regulated apartments. Some were family businesses that preferred to hold on to their buildings, banking on a return over time. Others had a more corporate face, along with investors. Some got mortgages based not on a building’s current rent roll but on its potential earnings. Some flipped buildings quickly, emptying and renovating as many regulated apartments as possible before selling to the next company, remaking neighborhoods from the inside out. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 7/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times One fairly recent example: In June 2013, BCB Property Management bought 1059 Union Street, in the fast-gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, for $8.2 million. Twenty-eight of the 32 apartments were rent-stabilized, tax bills show. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 In New January 2015, BCB sold the building for $13.2 million to Sugar Hill York Capital Partners, which 14 months later sold it to Sterling Equities for $17.9 million. Only 15 stabilized apartments remained. Across the city — ever deeper into Brooklyn and Queens and more recently into the Bronx — buildings have been transformed. The city has grown more crowded and more expensive. About 8.6 million people now live in New York, 1.3 million more than when Mr. Croman bought his first building. Yet the number of rental units has increased only slightly, mostly on the expensive end, while the median rent has jumped significantly. More than half of New Yorkers pay over 30 percent of their income in rent, meaning they are considered “rent-burdened” under federal guidelines. And while the raw number of regulated apartments has stayed roughly even, that figure hides a particular churn. Traditional regulated apartments pushed into the free market have been replaced by apartments added through tax-break programs, which are often much more expensive. In 2016, the median legal rent of newly registered stabilized apartments was $2,750 — roughly the median asking rent for all New York apartments on the rental website StreetEasy. In Brooklyn, the median rent of a newly stabilized apartment was almost $3,300. On the block of Mott Street where Mr. Croman started out — now part of the neighborhood rebranded NoLIta — a three-story parking garage has given way to condominiums priced as high as $21 million. An Italian funeral home has been reborn as a Japanese boutique. And where 261 traditional rent-regulated apartments once stood, only 91 remain. Six buildings have shed all their rent-regulated apartments. Mr. Croman’s building, which once had 11 apartments, all regulated, now has 18 apartments, only two of them regulated. A studio goes for north of $3,000 a month. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 8/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times How to Remake a uilding https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Frieda Taplitz bought 25 Grove Street for $52,500 in 1957. The building — red brick, tenement-style, built in 1886 — was a family investment: A New York Taplitz always lived there. Repairs and modest improvements, such as a new chimney and a new stairway enclosure, were done. Major renovations weren’t. Rents remained low. Tenants like Temma Tainow stayed for decades, and for the most part, the tenants and the Taplitzes got along. Only three complaints were recorded, all in the mid-1990s. But in 2015, the family decided to sell. An advertisement said the 19-unit building had 14 rent-regulated apartments with an average rent less than half of market rate. Two apartments were vacant. There was, in other words, a lot of value to be unlocked at 25 Grove Street. On June 11, 2015, the building was bought for $15.2 million by a limited liability company named 25 Grove Street. The company’s public face was Abraham Sanieoff, who had married into the family that ran the Sabet Group, a developer with a history of wresting apartments out of regulation. In the fall, construction crews arrived. Protecting tenants is supposed to be the job of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But construction is regulated by a separate agency, the Department of Buildings, and tenants are not its primary concern. In fact, no agency complaint category even mentions the word “tenant.” For a landlord seeking to free apartments from regulation, that bureaucratic limbo makes it easier to do rent-enhancing renovations hidden from city inspectors’ scrutiny. So landlords may lie on permit applications, saying that major construction is only cosmetic work, which demands far gentler oversight. They may begin work without obtaining permits at all. Whatever the violation, the median building fine between 2013 and 2017 was $800, pocket change for developers. The city’s finance department does little to ensure that fines are https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 9/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times collected. The buildings department does little to ensure that violations are fixed. Most permit applications for apartment renovations get only a cursory https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 review. That is because architects and engineers are allowed to “self-certify” that theyYork follow the rules, letting them quickly obtain permits for what they New say is minor work. A self-certified permit is often approved within days. Applications that are actually reviewed — those for more extensive work — can take months. A buildings department spokesman, Joseph Soldevere, said selfcertification helped make construction easier, faster and cheaper. Adding more red tape would simply drive illegal work further underground, he said, adding that the agency routinely audited self-certified applications, about one in every six last year. But a comparison of building permits, violations and apartment listings indicates how willfully some owners flout the rules. At 165 Avenue A, one of the East Village buildings purchased in part by Mr. Shaoul’s company, two architects submitted eight self-certified permits for apartment renovations between 2007 and 2011. Both claimed the work would not change occupancy. One, Ken Hudes, whose firm, Atelier New York Architecture, has become a favorite of mega-landlords, said his work would involve only minor partition changes. But the work was considerable: Apartments were gutted and converted from one- and two-bedrooms to four-bedrooms. Mr. Hudes denied any wrongdoing. In an email, he said his team turned nonfunctioning apartments into beautiful homes, adding, “Tenants and landlords love our work.” Just as permits are easily granted, complaints are often closed for the most basic reason: Inspectors are allowed to dismiss them if they fail twice to get inside. With regulated apartments, that has led to the dismissal of almost 3,000 complaints a year — even allegations of tenant harassment. Without other evidence, Mr. Soldevere said, the buildings department has little https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 10/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times choice but to close complaints when inspectors are refused entry or when a building is locked. Yet even when the buildings department does get inside and orders https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 landlords to fix problems, often no one seems to follow up. About a year after Mr.York Kushner’s joint venture bought 165 Avenue A — long after most New work was done, and after a ninth complaint that apartments were being illegally converted — inspectors finally got in. The company was fined $2,000 and told to restore three apartments to two bedrooms from four. The fine was paid. But the apartments are still marketed as having four bedrooms. In November, Apartment 8 was advertised for $5,500 a month. A spokeswoman for Kushner Companies declined to comment. After the sale of 25 Grove Street, the complaints piled up. In October 2015, a tenant reported apartments being gutted without permits. The building, in fact, had no permits whatsoever. In short order, the architect, Mr. Hudes’s partner, Jonathan Miller, submitted two self-certified permits, saying workers would do only minor work in four units. Within hours, each permit was rubber-stamped. City inspectors then responded to the initial complaint, dismissing it. Landlords are often tipped off to potential problems by complaints automatically logged on a public website. Only then do they file permit applications — akin to getting a driver’s license after being accused of speeding. “I’m not even as angry at the landlord as I am at the city,” said Collette Stallone, 63, a tenant. “They’re allowing this.” Mr. Sanieoff declined to comment. His lawyer, Joseph Buckley, denied any wrongdoing. Tenants soon complained of excessive dust, of illegal construction, of sloppy work. A drill punctured Ms. Tainow’s ceiling. A saw came through another tenant’s floor. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 11/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Photographs showed a thick layer of dust inside apartments. Ms. Tainow developed a raspy cough. “I was wearing a mask all the time, even when I was sleeping,” said https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Humberto Torres, 56, who has asthma and lives across the hall. New York Photographs later documented that the work was hardly minor: entire apartments taken down to the studs; one-bedroom units altered to have two. On Jan. 13, 2016, the owner and contractors were hit with four violations. Three of them — for working without permits and lying on one application — led to fines of $4,000. The fourth — for excessive dust in Mr. Torres’s apartment — was deemed “immediately hazardous.” Violation hearings are usually cozy affairs, with a city hearing officer, a buildings department lawyer and a representative of the building or construction firm. Tenants are not invited. Landlords routinely get the benefit of the doubt. At the dust-violation hearing, Abe Sicker, representing the construction company, argued that the violation’s class should be reduced. “It is annoying, the dust,” he conceded. “But an immediately hazardous violation?” The hearing officer agreed — and then some. She dismissed the violation altogether. The Cut­and­Pate Protection Plan In March 2015, a landlord named Asher Sussman told the buildings department that he wanted to transform his new “amazing investment opportunity” in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn from seven apartments into 10. “All he was seeing was dollar signs,” said Cynthia Wilkie, 62, who lived in one of the two occupied apartments at 632 Sterling Place. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 12/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times What happened next shows the flimsiness of the rules and paperwork designed to protect tenants in regulated apartments during construction. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 On the application, Mr. Sussman needed to check “yes” or “no” on two boxes: NewWas Yorkthe building occupied? Did it have rent-regulated units? He checked “no” on both. Contradicting the first false statement, Mr. Sussman’s architect submitted a “tenant-protection plan.” The plan itself was a word-for-word recitation of the city building code’s definition of a tenant protection plan. Separately, under “tenant safety notes,” the architect said construction would not “create dust, dirt, or other inconveniences.” Mr. Soldevere said examiners had determined that the protection planned for tenants was appropriate for the proposed construction. As with lying about the extent of construction, lying about occupancy or regulatory status is a crime and may mean that owners are compromising safety. If a building has tenants, a tenant protection plan is required to safeguard them. “It’s not just a bureaucratic check-the-box, not-check-the-box thing,” said Brandon Kielbasa, a tenant organizer with the Cooper Square Committee. “The consequences are that tenants are put in really dangerous situations or psychologically harassed out of their homes.” Yet as at 632 Sterling Place, many architects and engineers submitted tenant-protection plans with few protections, often simply cut and pasted from the building code. And falsified permits are not uncommon, a review of thousands of permits shows. Hundreds of owners lied about both occupancy and regulated apartments. Until recently, the review showed, the city largely ignored the boxes altogether. It didn’t track whether an owner lied about occupancy or whether a building had regulated apartments, considering tax bills unreliable because they were self-reported. Only in December 2016 did the state agency that monitors regulated apartments agree to tell the buildings department whether a building had any. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 13/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Architects and engineers are rarely held responsible for falsified permits. They are licensed by the state, which seldom punishes anyone. Those disciplined by the city often voluntarily surrender self-certification privileges to avoid more formal punishment. The reasons are never made https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 public. New York Their firms can easily bounce back. Take Atelier. In March 2015, Mr. Hudes voluntarily surrendered his self-certification privileges. His partner, Mr. Miller, took over. Then on Aug. 8, Mr. Miller voluntarily surrendered his privileges, making way for a new architect, Anatole Plotkin. Mr. Hudes recovered his privileges in November. The only criminal charge that The Times identified for a licensed contractor working on a regulated building involved Pirooz Soltanizadeh, an engineer indicted in June 2015 on felony charges of falsely reporting that no one lived at 1578 Union Street in Brooklyn. The arrests of Mr. Soltanizadeh and the owner, Daniel Melamed, were highly publicized, the first by a new citystate task force fighting tenant harassment. The building was illegally gutted around three families; construction dust contained 88 times the allowed lead level. In December, Mr. Soltanizadeh, who had faced up to four years in prison, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct — the equivalent of a ticket. He is still licensed, although he gave up his self-certification privileges a year ago. His lawyer, Paul Greenfield, said Mr. Melamed, who spent 20 days in jail and paid $200,000 in restitution, was to blame for the falsehoods. At 632 Sterling Place, after agreeing to buy the building in late 2014, Mr. Sussman had pushed tenants to leave, eventually offering buyouts. Two tenants agreed to move, including a woman with dementia. The other woman said she never received any money. But moving made no sense to Ms. Wilkie, who had lived there for 22 years and paid about $850 a month for the three-bedroom apartment she shared with her brother, daughter and two grandchildren. Ms. Wilkie had diabetes and had undergone double-bypass heart surgery. Her daughter, Wendy, 33, was blind and in a wheelchair because of childhood brain cancer. Ms. Wilkie’s brother had lost his right leg to diabetes. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 14/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Her neighbor, Arnold Brathwaite, 68, a retired veteran, also wanted to stay. By early 2016, the building started coming down around them, despite the cookie-cutter protection plan. The heat was turned off. The second and https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 third floors were gutted. A staircase was removed. A hole was cut into the roof. Debris New Yorkwas piled in corners, against walls. Dust was everywhere. On Aug. 10, 2016, inspectors issued 10 major building violations. Still, that meant only $23,250 in fines. Neither Mr. Sussman nor the architect was fined for lying. Mr. Sussman, the managing member of the limited liability company 632 Sterling L.L.C., did not respond to requests for comment. Because the building was so unsafe, the city moved the tenants to a Days Inn in Queens, filled mainly with other refugees from damaged apartments, their rent now paid by taxpayers. Ms. Wilkie, her daughter and granddaughter shared a cramped room with two queen-size beds. The hotel’s single, shared microwave became their kitchen. With help from the Legal Aid Society, Ms. Wilkie and Mr. Brathwaite sued to fix the building on Sterling Place. That case will take years. Mr. Brathwaite eventually settled, accepting another apartment from Mr. Sussman. Ms. Wilkie decided to fight. Her family stayed at the Days Inn for more than a year, until the city tried to move her to a homeless shelter in November. To avoid that, she temporarily rented an apartment in Brownsville, a Brooklyn neighborhood still ungentrified, with a bathroom too small for Wendy’s wheelchair. The monthly rent is $2,110, almost triple what she paid before. Mthical Cloet There is one more line of defense: the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, designated overseer of the rent laws, watchdog against rent fraud, guardian of the $2,733.75 threshold for traditional regulated apartments. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 15/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Many housing advocates argue that rent fraud is rampant in New York. How widespread such overcharges are, though, is impossible to judge, because the state agency doesn’t collect much of the necessary information. When it does, it is barred from making the data public. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 YetNew it is York clear that the agency is often helpless in the face of the myriad subterfuges that some landlords deploy to manipulate rent system guidelines. The agency, for example, requires landlords to report all regulated rents annually, along with vacancy increases and money spent on apartment improvements. But it does not require proof of that spending, unless a tenant files an overcharge complaint, which is rare. Nor does the agency check for a building permit when a landlord claims a rent increase for improvements. A missing permit could indicate that work was illegal, minor or never done. So just as they may lie about the extent — or even existence — of improvements to avoid oversight, landlords may claim whatever type and quantity of work is needed to free an apartment from regulation. If the state agency consistently comes up short, it is, perhaps unintentionally, frank about its limitations. On rental histories, the agency admits that it does not “attest to the truthfulness of the owner’s statements or the legality of the rents reported in this document.” On some rental histories, it misspells its own name: “Communtiy,” instead of “Community.” For an agency created to protect tenants, it often ends up sheltering landlords. In the name of protecting tenants’ privacy, the agency is barred from releasing rental histories, except to the tenant. It is even barred from reporting how many regulated apartments are in a building. In an attempt to quantify rent-rule violations, at least in microcosm, lawyers at the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, an advocacy group, investigated the rental histories of the 92 apartments at 560 Audubon Avenue. The study, part of a pending 2016 lawsuit alleging rent overcharges, found unexplained rent jumps in 58 apartments and https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 16/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times registered rents that didn’t match leases in 33. Thirteen tenants signed riders certifying that their apartments had been “completely renovated in a good workmanlike manner.” No renovations had been completed. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 In court filings, the owner, Hayco Corporation, denied overcharging tenants. New York The state housing agency is hamstrung, too, by archaic technology. So if a tenant wins an overcharge case, the agency’s 1980s computer system cannot automatically review the landlord’s other apartments for possible violations. In fact, the agency does not look for overcharges, even in the same building. “It’s like prescribing a Tylenol to a patient that has brain cancer,” said Aaron Carr, founder of the Housing Rights Initiative, which investigates rent overcharges for possible class-action lawsuits. The agency has had to do more with less: In 2017, only 27 examiners looked at overcharge complaints. In 2007, there were 37. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has still claimed successes, including a plan in January 2016 to re-regulate up to 50,000 illegally deregulated apartments. So far, only 1,900 have been returned to the rent rolls. In 2012, Mr. Cuomo also set up a Tenant Protection Unit, which undertook the first-ever audits of owners who had reported significant increases for apartment improvements, recovering $4.5 million for tenants. The unit says it has returned 67,000 apartments to the regulated rolls. But tenant advocates called that figure illusory, saying owners were merely allowed to register their apartments as stabilized, but at their current higher rents, without penalties, “ratifying their earlier fraud,” said Edward Josephson, litigation director for Legal Services NYC. The state refused to give any information about those apartments, which in any event would barely stem losses. The city now has 6,500 fewer stabilized apartments than in 2011, according to state numbers. The tenant protection unit has enemies. Real estate industry groups sued, challenging its existence. Though the suit was dismissed, they have https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 17/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times appealed. State lawmakers, who still rely heavily on industry donations, have consistently denied the unit’s budget request. The state housing agency funds it. Its commissioner, RuthAnne Visnauskas, said she hoped lawmakers would increase the unit’s funding “so that we can do even https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 more.” New York Recently the unit audited 560 Audubon, looking at three apartments and ordering rent reductions after no proof of improvements was provided. Investigators neither fined the landlord nor examined other apartments there. “I was gobsmacked,” said Matthew Chachere, a lawyer with Northern Manhattan. In 2016, the state started requiring landlords to give new rent-regulated tenants explanations of their rent, and to provide more proof of apartment improvements. But tenants rarely check explanations, and the government rarely investigates the authenticity of landlords’ proof. Christopher Leahy, a landlord and contractor who has testified as an expert witness for tenants, believes some landlords claim improvements and then fabricate evidence if tenants file overcharge complaints. The landlords “keep doing it because they so often get away with it,” he said. “Most tenants don’t complain.” Matt Pavoni did. The 37-year-old actor filed a complaint last year after seeing a huge jump in his rental history at 600 Lincoln Place in Crown Heights. In response, the landlord, a limited liability company under the umbrella of the Watermark Capital Group, claimed about $42,500 worth of improvements in 2013 — just enough to push the rent above the then-$2,500 threshold, into the free market. The proof was riddled with problems. The check copies were so tiny as to be illegible. One company, Pinpoint Builders, claimed to have done $20,000 of the work. But the address on its letterhead — 5041 16th Avenue in Brooklyn — did not exist. The new bathroom tiles it claimed to have installed were cracking. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 18/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Another company, Yankels Demolition and Rubbish Removal, charged $4,000 for “rubbish removal” but classified it as an apartment improvement, yielding a $100 monthly rent increase. The company also claimed to have redone the closets. The apartment has no closets. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 “That Newreally Yorkupset me,” Mr. Pavoni said. Watermark defends the rent increase. The company said Pinpoint was now based out of another office and blamed tenants for the cracked bathroom tiles. As for the closets, Watermark said they were included in the original work order, then omitted. In January, the state housing agency ruled in Watermark’s favor, saying it had never received Mr. Pavoni’s mailed response. He has appealed. Hardl a lip The vanishing affordable apartment is having an extended political moment. In the brewing race for governor, Mr. Cuomo’s challenger, Cynthia Nixon, has proposed overhauling state rent laws to make it harder to deregulate apartments. And last August, the city adopted a package of measures to fight tenant harassment, establishing a tenant advocate, slightly increasing some penalties and beefing up requirements for tenant protection plans. But the buildings department will be the primary enforcer, and its commitment is unclear. In March, department officials told a City Council committee that new employees would not be hired for the advocate’s office. The commissioner, Rick Chandler, said the department had long advocated successfully for tenants. “I’m very disheartened,” Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who pushed for the new office, told The Times in April. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 19/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Last week, after questioning by The Times, the department appeared to have changed its mind: Mr. Soldevere said funding had been requested for two new employees for the advocate’s office. In addition, he said that because of the new laws, the agency planned to hire more than 70 new https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 employees to focus on tenant protection and set up a quick-response unit York of work without permits. forNew complaints “We won’t tolerate landlords who use construction to harass tenants,” he said, adding that since September, the department had issued 547 violations for lying about occupancy and regulation on permits. The Times identified 370 that had been resolved. Out of $1.8 million in fines, about $280,000 has been paid; the median fine was $2,400. With the new scrutiny, some large landlords have stopped lying on permit applications, a review of hundreds of applications shows. They have amended their playbook. But while they are now more likely to check the boxes saying that buildings are occupied with regulated apartments, their tenant protection plans are still pro forma and vague. In the first three months of 2018, Mr. Plotkin of Atelier filed at least 55 identical plans — 475-word statements that used phrases from the building code and garbled statements like, “Noise will kept to a minimum during working while ongoing construction is taking place.” Since harassing a rent-regulated tenant became a crime in the state in 1997, no landlord has been convicted. The few landlords successfully prosecuted for crimes like reckless endangerment have faced relatively small fines and little jail time. The exception is Mr. Croman, accused in 2016 of intimidating tenants with a private investigator and turning buildings into hazardous construction sites. Those were civil charges, brought by the state attorney general. An accompanying criminal case charged him not with harassment but with 20 felonies, stemming, in part, from allegations that might have sprung from a developer’s magical thinking: To secure loans, prosecutors charged, he claimed that stabilized apartments were actually renting at market rate. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 20/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Eventually, Mr. Croman pleaded guilty to three felonies and settled the civil case. He agreed to pay a $5 million tax settlement and set up an $8 million restitution fund. And while he was sentenced to only a year in jail — he had faced up to 25 — he was supposed to go to the crowded and dangerous https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Rikers Island jail complex. New York Mr. Croman did not go to Rikers. Instead, he ended up at the Manhattan Detention Complex in Chinatown — more convenient for family and friends. He is to be released next month. His company still owns its buildings, though the state monitors them, as part of his settlement. And his buildings and contractors have continued to rack up violations; as of April, they owed almost $875,000, records show. Since his arrest, 123 of 139 permit applications identified by The Times were self-certified. A spokesman for his company, Sam Spokony, declined to answer questions but said the company was “diligently implementing” the settlement, “in line with our ongoing focus on using best practices to provide quality housing for our residents.” At 25 Grove Street, a few regulated tenants eventually sued, winning a temporary rent reduction. After the worker fell through Ms. Tainow’s ceiling in August 2016, the hole was immediately patched. A few hours later, as Ms. Tainow sat at her computer, workers punched another hole, this time in her living room ceiling, sending another large chunk of drywall onto the floor. Ms. Tainow started screaming. Neighbors called an ambulance: Her blood pressure had shot up to a dangerous 190/130. Despite the two cave-ins, a building inspector wrote up only one Class 1 violation, the most serious kind, for a “localized collapse of ceiling” in the living room and cracks in Mr. Torres’s apartment across the hall. At the hearing, Mr. Sicker, again representing the construction company, argued that the violation class should be reduced. An engineer’s report about the living room, he said, showed “there was nothing really there.” No photographs were provided. Vivian Currie, the buildings department’s lawyer, described the two ceiling collapses as “a small localized area,” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 21/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times explaining that he had hesitated calling the building inspector to testify because it would have taken time. “Yeah, I mean, to avoid getting the inspector, you know, we will move to amend.” https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Ms. Tainow was not mentioned. Mr. Sicker won his reduction. The fine was halved, to $5,000. New York January 2017 brought another complaint about illegal construction. After learning about the complaint, Mr. Sanieoff, the landlord, texted the rental agent, Alice Bahar, blaming Ms. Tainow and describing her as “a piece of garbage!” The complaint was closed because inspectors failed twice to get inside. In June 2017, the apartment above Ms. Tainow’s finally hit the market: The former one-bedroom was now the “BEST TRUE 3 BEDROOM apartment in the West Village area,” according to the StreetEasy listing. The rent: $6,500. For all its problems, 25 Grove is hardly a blip in the world of rent regulation. Tenants complained to their local officials, with little response. Their lawyer wrote to the attorney general’s bureau investigating landlords, which sent back a form letter: “Because of the volume of complaints, the limits of our resources, and the constraints of our jurisdiction, the bureau cannot act on or otherwise investigate every complaint.” Even after Mr. Sussman practically dismantled Ms. Wilkie’s building, the attorney general’s office declined the case. “I’m pretty upset that the office didn’t think there was a basis for prosecuting him,” said Stephen Myers, Ms. Wilkie’s lawyer. On May 4, the buildings department decided the landlord could continue renovations. “O.K. to work,” said the order, posted out front. After questioning from The Times, the department on Thursday stopped work. Mr. Sanieoff has expanded. His companies bought two more properties, including 37 King Street, a half-mile from 25 Grove, purchased in November for $17.5 million. The advertisement for the building proclaimed, “Tremendous value can be captured through the https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 22/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times destabilization and renovation of the residential units that remain untouched for years.” https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Jeica Silver­Greenerg, Grace Ahford, Sarah Cohen, Agutin Armendariz and John Krau contriuted reporting. Suan each contriuted reearch. New York Related Coverage Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition MAY 20, 2018 © 2018 The New York Times Company 3 SIGN UP Subscriber login ARTICLS RMAINING https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 23/23
5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times UNSHELTERED Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe the Case for Keeping Their Homes New York Settlements are pushed in chaotic hallways, emergency loans are held up as cure-alls and delays are seemingly endless. Welcome to housing court. Take a number. By N. R. KLEINFIELD MAY 20, 2018 Outside, shuddering in the cold, they waited. For regulars, the ones flung repeatedly into this quizzical place, they knew it was going to be a long, sour wait, for the line looped back and wiggled around the corner and touched the Lane Bryant store. The Lane Bryant store usually meant upward of an hour’s wait. This was the line to get into 141 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn, premises of Brooklyn Housing Court. Its business is deciding whether to evict people. It was this way in rain and howling wind and snow. Under the gray slab that was the sky, a gangly man slid down the line, barking out his spiel, offering cards for a free program to pay moving expenses, modest consolation if things went badly inside. An abundant woman with a hurting look was stammering into her glowing cellphone: “I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to go live on the street. I’ve got a son. How do I tell my son we’re living on the street?” U N S H  LT  R  D Articles in this series examine New York's broken system for protecting tenants and affordable apartments. Part 1: The Vanishing Affordable Apartment Part 2: The Eviction Machine Part 3: 69,000 Housing Crises What You Need to Know as a New York Tenant https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 1/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Farther along, a man fingering his beard, his eyes narrowed to slits, said into his phone: “I’m waiting in line, seeing if I got a home. I’m a broken https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe homeboy.” New York Sullen people with derailed lives being reset to zero, inching toward the unknown. The waiting added to the stress. It added to the humiliation. In Brooklyn, you waited in line to get evicted. What You Need to Know a a Tenant New York’s housing system can be complicated to navigate. Here’s a quick primer on what your rights are and how to exercise them. On the second floor, first-timers took numbers and sat until called over the loudspeakers to a clerk’s window to learn their next court dates. Like bakery numbers. Bingo numbers. Yellow Ticket 71, Window 3. White Ticket 50, Window 7. Yellow Ticket 72, Window 3. At the help desk in the waiting room run by Housing Court Answers, a research and advocacy group, a man said loudly: “Seven times the landlord has tried to evict me. The lawyer calls me a Gypsy. I’m not a Gypsy. I’m not a thief. You can call the F.B.I., anyone, I’m not wanted, I’m not a thief. I’m a grandfather. Their lawyer wanted to beat me up, too.” Next to him, a man with a prosthetic leg explained that he had missed a court date while in the hospital to fix his heart, and now his landlord was evicting him. “They got a bunch of trumped-up things because they want someone else in there,” he said. “They don’t want the ones that make sense.” (Rea d a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e exploited w ea k ened la w s a nd fr a g m ented bu r ea u cr a cy to r em a k e bu ilding s a nd neig hbor hoods, in Pa r t 1 of this ser ies.) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 2/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Nearby, a young man sat at a folding table, entering cases into a computer for the tenant-screening services that offer blacklists — compilations that landlords can buy to identify tenants who have been in housing court, people they’ll avoid renting to. You can win your case, yet you still make the https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe list, still depart wearing the taint of housing court. New York A Lopided Court New York City’s housing crisis doesn’t start in housing court. But it ends here, the last stop on the road to eviction. It’s the system’s busiest court. Each borough has a housing court, but Brooklyn’s stands apart. It isn’t a courthouse, but a repurposed commercial building whose better days have long been forgotten. There’s inadequate space. Balky elevators. Grimy bathrooms. No privacy. Judges squeeze into the same elevators as everyone else, sometimes skipping a car if a litigant they’ve ruled against is inside. One judge remembers being tailed to the bank. A precaution whispered by seasoned courtgoers is to wash your clothes when you get home. Bedbugs. The court is due to move to more appropriate accommodations in the municipal building, but it never seems to happen. Almost no one is pleased with the court’s tortured workings. Plodding and confusing, the court often seems diffident in dealing with the homes of human beings. Landlords complain that the court tilts toward tenants, that it commonly takes three to six months to evict someone, whereas in some other states it can take mere days. But while New York is considered to have strong tenant protections, bewildered tenants still routinely find themselves outfoxed by landlords. They battle for their homes largely unrepresented by lawyers, making housing court the most lopsided court in the system. “It has always been the single defining thing about housing court since it was created, to try to create justice when most of the people on one side were represented and one side was not,” said Judge Jean T. Schneider, the citywide supervising judge for housing court. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 3/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times New York’s housing court was created in 1973, with the main objective of making sure apartments stayed in good repair. Today the bulk of its work is eviction proceedings. Little of its activity has to do with getting repairs done, something it is notably ineffective at doing. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe Last year brought a blur of nearly 69,000 filings in Brooklyn, second only New York to the Bronx. Only about 6 percent were so-called HP cases (for Housing Part), in which tenants bring actions against landlords for offenses like lack of heat, broken fixtures or vermin. Virtually all the rest were eviction actions, mainly over tenants’ falling behind on the rent. But with landlords keen to empty apartments to raise rents, a number of cases have been brought over lagging rent payments that are hairsplittingly minimal. And there has been aggressive use of another species of eviction proceeding, known as a holdover, that can involve minute — and sometimes fabricated — violations of a tenant’s lease. In Brooklyn, about 17 percent of eviction cases last year were holdovers: One tenant had no right to a lease and wouldn’t move; another kept an unauthorized washing machine; a child, as claimed in one case, was throwing rice out the window. (Rea d m or e a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e com m a ndeer ed the hou sing cou r t sy stem in Pa r t 2 .) Yet while housing court is increasingly used as a tool to wrest apartments from the shackles of regulation, it is a lot more complicated than that. Inside its courtrooms are the textbook bad landlords, but also plenty of dishonorable tenants. Mostly, there are hurting families fighting to keep a basic human necessity — a home — at a time when tenant protections have eroded and gentrification is shoving ever deeper into Brooklyn and the city’s other boroughs. The steady stream of people trickling into this maze of courtrooms gives the impression that an entire small town is perpetually being cleared of its citizens. The pace of evictions has slowed recently, as legal services for tenants have expanded and government payments for arrears have increased, but it remains high. Last year, there were 21,074 across the city. Of those, 5,984 took place in Brooklyn. In other words, every day an average of 16 families lost their homes. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 4/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Settling in the Hallwa https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe The hallways were jam-packed. People pushing babies in strollers, people sucking on asthma inhalers, people trailed by wheeled oxygen tanks. Most New York tenants were black or Hispanic. Most were women. A majority were on public assistance, but many were working- or middleclass, as housing cases have climbed the economic ladder. The place to understand housing court is the hallways. They are the court’s war zone. A vast majority of cases end in settlements. Otherwise the court would implode, because it hasn’t the resources to conduct many trials. The emphasis is to settle now, settle always. Unwritten protocol is that tenants wait inside a courtroom, often for hours, until landlords’ lawyers bustle in, bellow their names and beckon them to step out to talk. Settlement discussions occur in the hallways, within earshot of everyone, because there is no other space for them. Since there is little seating, these conversations usually happen standing up. It’s hard to think clearly when you can’t even sit down. A report on the court years ago said it resembled a hospital waiting room, and that seems about right. The hallways, though, feel like a bustling bazaar. Negotiations deal not with textiles or pottery, but with homes. Litigants trade money for time, until there is no more money and therefore no more time. And therefore no more home. Once an agreement is reached, the distilled terms — 30 days to pay $2,304.83, or 45 days to pay $1,922.16, or 15 days to get out — are normally handwritten by the landlord’s lawyer on a sheet known as a stipulation, or stip. Stips are the currency of housing court. Once signed, they are presented for approval in lightning-fast appearances before a judge who knows little, if anything, of their back story. The experience of James Caple speaks for many. For 12 years, he had lived in a Crown Heights apartment plagued by leaks and other shortcomings. To little avail, he complained about mold and the stink of garbage outside his https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 5/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times windows. He lived with his girlfriend, two dogs and two cats. The apartment was rent-stabilized, $1,175 a month. He is 62. His biography of a dwindling life includes the facts that he was a https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe mechanic and worked in housekeeping at a nursing home in California, became H.I.V. positive, lived on Long Island with his aunt until she died, New York slept in a shelter for six months. One day, his girlfriend’s brother stopped by. When he left, the police arrested him outside and found drugs on him. They knocked on Mr. Caple’s apartment and asked to look around. He let them in, and they discovered nothing of interest. Several weeks later, he received notice that the landlord was seeking to evict him because he was a drug dealer. He didn’t understand, thinking he was simply accused of being a nuisance. He knew he was a complainer. He said he never sold drugs, didn’t use drugs. At court, in February 2015, the landlord’s lawyer pulled him into the hallway and offered a paltry $5,000 to clear out. He said no. At the next court date, pressed again, he signed a stipulation to leave. Why? “Because the landlord’s lawyer said it was in my best interest,” Mr. Caple said. “Said I couldn’t win. I was shook up. I didn’t know anything. I’m just me.” The agreement omitted the $5,000. The judge approved it. Tenants wind up signing all sorts of dubious stips. Because they’re scared. Or bewildered. Or ashamed. Or have children to pick up from school. Or can’t skip another day of work. Or think they’re speaking to an impartial court official when it’s actually the landlord’s lawyer. Court lawyers and judges review stips, but in many instances those are inadequate safeguards. Judges routinely face 40, 50, 60 cases a day. One judge had 83 on a recent day. Another had 92. They say they would like to have half as many, a third as many, to be able to consider them more thoughtfully. Mr. Caple feared he would wind up homeless again. A tenant in a nearby building told him that landlords were squeezing people out of the neighborhood and that Brooklyn Legal Services would represent him pro https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 6/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times bono. The lawyer got the stip vacated, and finally, nearly two years after the case began, the landlord discontinued it. Mr. Caple’s apartment still needed repairs. His health wavered. On good https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe days, he hunted for discarded cans to redeem, to help cover the expenses of hisNew pets.York ‘I’m So Ahamed’ In a corner courtroom, Judge Jeannine Baer Kuzniewski shushed the room and addressed the tenants who filled the pews, saying that they had to check in by 10:30 a.m. or risk being defaulted. “Unless my administrative judge tells me the elevators aren’t working, which happens fairly frequently, then this may delay defaults,” she said. Then the judge addressed a 74-year-old man about to be evicted, with nothing left to avert that end. She spoke tenderly. He was from Baltimore. She was from Baltimore. She dwelled on that commonality. “Baltimore is a nice place,” she said. She asked if he had children. He had seven. She asked if he had told them of his plight. He had not. She said: “Should I presume when your children were young you did everything for them? Wouldn’t they want to help you if they knew? Think about it. It’s up to you. It’s your call. If it were my father, it would hurt me to know my father didn’t turn to me.” Blank-faced, he said nothing. She granted him until the end of the month to leave. She finished up, 50 more cases beckoning. “Sir, do you have any questions?” she asked. “Do you understand this?” He stared with flat affect. He understood. In the hallway, his voice was shy and hesitant. His name was Ulrick Alcindor. He used to have a construction business. His marriage had ended. Seven months before, he had left for New York, a city he had never seen, banking on its mythic infinity of possibilities. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 7/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times He arranged to work as the maintenance man in a building in East Flatbush in exchange for a dank basement apartment. He gave out his card at Home Depot to solicit jobs for income. Calls were scant. Six weeks earlier, as he was leaving for church, the landlord announced that he had to https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe leave. New York He said he needed to get to church. When he returned, the locks had been changed. This was illegal. The police made the landlord give him keys. Two days later, he received a notice summoning him to housing court. He had no lease and no standing. A lawyer told him she couldn’t help. So he returned alone for this final verdict. He had been trying to find a place, scouring ads on the computer at the library. At best, he could afford $500. That went nowhere in today’s Brooklyn. His savings totaled $400. His voice thinned. He began to cry. He said he had nothing. He had put belongings in a storage unit in Baltimore but fell behind on the rental fee. “I came here with two pairs of shoes,” he said. “Two pairs.” “I’m ashamed,” he said. “I’m so ashamed.” In succeeding weeks, time slipping away, he retreated to Baltimore, to temporarily occupy his old house that his wife was selling. Late last year, he returned to a Brooklyn room that cost $600 a month. One of his eyes yielded to glaucoma, and he couldn’t work. His Social Security left him without enough money for food. He needed someplace cheaper, but had no idea where it could be found. Swapping Storie Amid the patter and the corrosive exchanges in the hallways, tenants told stories, the grotesqueries that overtook them, stories that gained legs and got retold as revelations. It was the way conversation was made in housing court. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 8/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Two women were talking on the fifth floor. Four roommates shared an apartment. One day they found a young Italian woman setting up house on the foldout couch in the living room. The landlord had rented out the couch. They tried to glean some understanding from the Italian woman, https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe but she spoke essentially no English. For all they knew, she thought such New were theYork eccentricities of New York life. They protested to the landlord. His response: Tough. One of the roommates, a restaurant hostess, put up with the weirdness for a month and a half before moving out. The Italian woman took her room. Then this: a couple with an autistic son, mushrooms growing on their bathroom walls, rats the size of their cat. The woman said the ceiling fell on her while she was showering. When they complained, the landlord slapped an eviction notice on their door, ordering them out in three days. At court, they found out the notice was a fake that he had printed up. And: a man with a Crown Heights apartment, the rent a controlled $235. A new owner offered him $50,000 to leave. He moved. He deposited the check. The landlord had put a stop on it. When he called the landlord, the response was unsympathetic. He received a new check that did clear: $2,500. One­Shot Deal Outside the one-shot room on the fourth floor, people piled up. They pulled numbered tickets from the dispenser on the wall, then stood in the hallway burble until motioned in to plead for money. About 55 tenants a day came calling. The one-shot room is where the Human Resources Administration, the city’s social-services agency, processes emergency payments to extinguish the arrears of tenants facing eviction. The payments, called one-shot deals, are talked about all day, every day. They’re the magic elixir of housing court. In a single wondrous act, a one-shot vanishes that $2,351 in debt, that $6,802, that $4,013. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 9/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, significantly more money has been paid out as the program has been marketed more aggressively and caseworkers have been told to stress averting homelessness when they weigh applications. In Brooklyn, $62.6 million was spent on one-shots in https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe fiscal 2017, up from $35.2 million three years earlier, the individual New York amounts averaging $3,800. The rental assistance staff members in the one-shot room have the authority to approve infusions of up to $15,000 on the spot. Higher-ups have granted one-shots topping $30,000. But often the figures are shockingly small. “I’ve seen one-shots for $200 or $300,” said Mayra Infante, a former supervisor for the Brooklyn unit. “I’ve seen cases where someone was being evicted for $50.” In they marched. No. 29. No. 30. No. 31. A 68-year-old woman with glittering eyes, $1,800 behind on rent for her apartment of 38 years, had been sick with cancer. Her granddaughter lived with her and had lost her job but had just been hired at H&M. Approved for a one-shot, her mood ascendant, the woman said: “Thank you. Thank you, Jesus. I was worried to death.” A woman with wobbly finances had paid her daughter’s college tuition instead of the rent. The agency considers such choices misguided money management, a common failing cited in the one-shot room. The caseworker scribbled down a referral for a financial counselor. Approved. In their questioning, the caseworkers must ask what led to the arrears. Usually it’s loss of income. Family emergencies. A relative’s death. But there are outliers. A few years ago, a woman admitted that she’d fallen behind because she had gone to the Dominican Republic for liposuction. A retired police officer told how he had met a woman online who visited for the weekend and departed with $7,000 of his money. Both were approved for one-shots. Among all the agency’s offices citywide, the approval rate is 67 percent. But in this office, it is close to 99 percent. “These are people about to be evicted,” Ms. Infante said. “Some of them are hours away.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 10/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Technically, one-shots are loans. But older New Yorkers and people collecting Social Security disability don’t have to repay one-shots. Others on public assistance are expected to repay between 5 and 10 percent. The rest, who are a minority, get repayment schedules that can stretch for https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe years. According to the social services agency, about 80 percent of people York areNew behind on repaying the loans. To get a one-shot, you must show pay stubs, prove your income, your rent. A popular rule of thumb is that people should spend no more than a third of their income on rent, but that’s a fantasy in the one-shot room. Half is pretty much the norm, and many are paying 75 or 80 percent. The city’s expectation is that no one should get multiple one-shots in a year. Yet some people collect two or three. Lawyers and even judges dart into the one-shot room to check on applications. A landlord’s lawyer whisked in, saying, “Where’s it stand? I’m having a stroke here, a ministroke.” Do one-shots permanently solve these crises? Hard to know. For a tenant who has missed the rent because of one of life’s occasional calamities, a one-shot can mend things, perhaps for good. Many in housing court, though, know of manipulative tenants. One tenants’ rights advocate acknowledged that she knew people who, upon receiving a one-shot, ceased paying rent. Numerous people live on income insufficient to keep the marshal away for long in a changing Brooklyn. They cycle in and out of court and get two, three, four one-shots before being denied. Landlords’ lawyers deal with regulars they see every year or two. They inquire about one another’s children, like old friends catching up. “The service we provide is a prevention tool,” Ms. Infante said. “It’s not a solution.” No. 69. No. 70. No. 71. No Trading Down in rookln https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 11/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Grand Rapids, Mich. Plainfield, N.J. Sioux Falls, S.D. The Dominican Republic. Kenosha, Wis. To the question of where the evicted of Brooklyn went, these were some https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe answers. A lot of housing court ends in geography. New York Woman going to Puerto Rico. To stay where? Mom’s. Woman going to Jersey City, over the river. To stay where? No idea. Woman going to Indiana. To stay where? Her son, carries the mail, keeps a parakeet. It used to be that people moved farther into Brooklyn as their lives went askew, to the next neighborhood or the next. Traded down. Now Brooklyn offered no down. These were, in a number of instances, people working fundamental jobs. A UPS driver. A nanny. A gravedigger. Part of the human infrastructure of the city. The well-housed want their packages delivered, their children minded, their graves dug. But where do these workers live? A woman ousted from her apartment with her daughter and grandson had searched endlessly, but Brooklyn’s economics no longer intersected with hers. “These rents are like a bad stomachache,” she said. So on to Albany. A three-bedroom there for $1,000 would renovate her disappointed life. “I’ve got to bleed Brooklyn out of me,” she said. “Get an Albany vibe.” “My best to you in the Snow Belt,” the judge said. “You know Albany gets a lot of snow.” Triage at Legal Aid Now it was Thursday and the weekly case review meeting at the Brooklyn offices of the Legal Aid Society, just down the block from housing court. Legal Aid keeps an office at the court, where a paralegal hears tenants seeking free representation. The demand is too great — around 120 visitors a week — so people are prioritized. Some earn too much to qualify. Some need cheaper housing or more income, not a lawyer. Inability to be helped is a big category. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 12/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times From this weekly rush, the paralegal grants appointments with a staff lawyer to two dozen or so people. The lawyers gather details and then, on Thursday afternoons, assemble to chew over the tenants’ circumstances and determine whether to accept their cases. This day’s agenda listed 21 https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe cases. New York It’s striking how many eligible tenants don’t even consider a lawyer. They assume it’s not an option or don’t trust lawyers. They think little of a paid lawyer, less of a free one. One morning at housing court a woman was told she could walk down two floors and apply for a lawyer. She waved it off. “It’s not worth the trouble,” she said. Studies used to show that as few as 1 percent of tenants in housing court had lawyers, compared with more than 90 percent of landlords. A survey in 2016, after the city allotted tens of millions of dollars for legal help for tenants, found that 27 percent of tenants had lawyers, against 99 percent of landlords. Last year, the city announced that it would phase in far greater funding for lawyers for the poor, and tenant representation has been climbing significantly. Tenant lawyers, however, have been scrambling to meet the heavier caseloads and finding themselves unable to devote as much time to individual cases. Some of this day’s cases were straightforward: A woman with developmental disabilities was behind on her rent, which equaled half her monthly income. Another woman had had a cracked floor that the landlord wouldn’t fix. She had it repaired and subtracted the cost from her rent. He was moving to evict her for nonpayment. Now a peculiar one. A man responded to an apartment listing on Craigslist, was given a tour and took the place. He paid the rent by money orders he slid into a box in the lobby. After nine months, he received notice that he was being evicted. He learned that the tenant of record lived in Alaska and was apparently in arrears, and thus he and anyone else occupying the apartment were being thrown out. “He literally has no idea who showed him the apartment and was renting it to him,” said the woman presenting the case. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 13/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times The lawyers found the case interesting but beyond their help. It seemed the tenant had been swindled. Next: a 61-year-old woman being evicted on the grounds that she had https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe refused to allow an exterminator to rid the apartment of bedbugs. Huh? Who would New Yorkrisk their home out of affection for bedbugs? The case had lingered since July 2015. Facts were fuzzy. The woman maintained that she had let the exterminator in but he had done nothing. The landlord said she hadn’t prepared appropriately. Seemed a solvable problem, yet the case was lined up for trial. Stephen Myers, a supervising lawyer in the office, suspected that bedbugs were the landlord’s pretext to dispense with the woman. She occupied a $737-a-month rent-stabilized apartment in what had become a co-op building. Next: a landlord alleging that a woman had allowed her sinks to overflow three times, damaging the apartment beneath her. The tenant below had been the woman’s best friend but no longer was. “Client has not the best memory,” the lawyer said. “The first time she forgot to turn off the bathroom faucet and went to bed. Another time she was washing dishes and overfilled the sink. Then her granddaughter flushed her doll down the toilet and stuffed it up.” The afternoon was gone. Of 21 cases, two were rejected outright: the Craigslist con and a woman with no capacity to pay the rent. Eight were “reps,” meaning they would be taken on, and 11 needed further research. ‘Your Attitude I Off the Wall’ There’s often a good show in Judge Marc Finkelstein’s courtroom. He is known for theatrics and a certain grumpiness, an egalitarian grumpiness directed at one side as much as the other. At times, he pulls out a prop. For instance, he will confess that a case is giving him a headache, display a large bottle of aspirin and ask the litigants, “Do you need one of these?” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 14/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Here was a middle-aged woman he knew too well — in the midst of a divorce, evicted from her apartment but not fully moved out, given extension after extension — and his patience with her had faded. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: You’ve appeared in front of me umpteen New York times. I’ve given you umpteen opportunities. You’ve brought another order to show cause. You’re to move your stuff by June 14. What’s the problem now? She said she needed a man to help. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: You tell me that you can’t do it without a man helping you. What am I supposed to do about that? WOMAN: I need to work. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: I don’t care. She wanted two more weeks. She showed him pictures of her furniture, how strong arms were needed to move it. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: So get a man. What do you want from me? She said she had found her books from college dumped in the garbage, had donned a face mask to try to dig them out, and some were missing. She began to choke up. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: Now we go into the crying thing. This happens every time. You come in here with a smile like I’m your buddy, and when you don’t get what you want you start crying. WOMAN: Maybe you can find my books. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: I’m a judge. I’m not the Sanitation Department. He granted her six more days. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 15/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Another day, there was Ruth Jeanniton, a 46-year-old hairstylist with a modest income and a 6-year-old daughter. She was being evicted from an apartment in East Flatbush. A new owner was carving the place into multiple units. While she had previously agreed to leave in two weeks in https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe return for $3,000, now she was asking for more time to find a new place. York to the judge that she didn’t have heat or hot water. SheNew mentioned The landlord lawyer said: “This is just a shakedown. I don’t believe there is no heat or hot water. But if there was, to move her stuff out she could get a pair of gloves.” That got the judge’s back up. “That comment is outrageous,” he said. “I could turn off your heat and tell you to get gloves.” The lawyer continued to dispute the claim. The woman said the city had inspected the apartment and confirmed an absence of heat and hot water. The judge checked on the computer. The city had. Judge Finkelstein told the lawyer, “Your attitude is off the wall,” and then, ”When it’s time to fold your tent, it’s time to fold your tent.” The lawyer couldn’t restrain himself: “If she’s freezing, she shouldn’t be there.” “You can’t quit,” the judge said. “That’s your answer — if it’s freezing, she shouldn’t be there?” The judge gave her another month. Turning to the lawyer, he said, “If I could, I would sentence you to live in this apartment.” ad conomic Charles Wasserman motored through the hallways. A housing court regular, he mainly represents landlords. In his load of cases, he was puzzled by one against a tenant who owed $45,000, having not paid rent in 27 months. His colleague said, “That’s the gestation period of an elephant.” Mr. Wasserman learned that the building management somehow hadn’t noticed that the tenant had ceased paying rent. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 16/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Then he had Shane Peters, 36, who had bought his first house in Canarsie. It contained three rental units, and relatives of his would occupy the extra https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe two. The previous owner’s husband had died and the existing tenants had stopped paying rent. Unable to afford to take them to court, she sold the New York building. Now one tenant refused to leave. Hence housing court. “Some tenants I see once a year,” Mr. Wasserman said. “Some have known me since I’ve had children. That’s 15 years. Some of them do it to themselves or sometimes the system doesn’t help them get out of the way.” Another lawyer, also a regular, said: “I’ve seen too many people who make the rent back-burner. Behind school uniforms, Christmas presents, graduation presents.” He recalled one evicted tenant who showed up in court with the iPhone that had just been released. James Kasdon, a veteran landlord lawyer, said: “I’ve sued some people a dozen times. I sued one person 15 times. Same building. They’re gaming the landlord.” He said, “At the end of the day, the landlord is not the social safety net.” One afternoon, in chambers, Judge Gary F. Marton reflected on the challenges of deciding cases: “I’ve had any number of instances when I’m presented with a stipulation and it has something in there that doesn’t really make sense, and I’ll ask the tenant, ‘Why did you sign this?’ And they don’t have an effective response.” He added: “Tenants will agree to paying all the rent in three months, and they know they need six months. A lot of people are counting on miracles.” He knows the court befuddles tenants: “I’ve often had this discussion with tenants: ‘How much rent do you owe?’ They say four months. I say, ‘How much is that?’ And they can’t do it. The rent is $1,200 a month. They can’t ballpark it.” Are landlords right to complain that evictions take too long? “In certain cases, yes,” he said. “In most cases, I’d say no. If you’re a landlord and you don’t know the process you’re getting into, then that’s on you. If you’re https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 17/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times going to be a landlord and you think you’ll never have a tenant who doesn’t pay the rent, you’re naïve.” Judges recognize that there are bad landlords and bad tenants, but many https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe cases boil down to bad economics. “I’d say most cases are unfortunate circumstances,” said Judge Eleanora Ofshtein. “I’ve said from the bench New York that both of you could end up in a shelter. ‘This person has a mortgage to pay, and you have rent to pay.’” It frustrates her to see so many tenants who don’t budget well, “so few people who have a Plan B.” And she has presided over many actions by landlords that infuriated her. “They want to evict over $10?” she said. “Really? I’ve seen $18. I’ve seen $36.” Don’t Have Guet in the Winter Abigael Puritz and Kate Klenfner could often be found at housing court. They were subsumed into it four years ago and couldn’t escape. They occupied separate apartments in a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Ms. Klenfner, 39, is on disability. Ms. Puritz, 26, is an artist and student. They contended that their rents had been improperly raised in the rentstabilized building, and that their landlord wouldn’t fix things. Ms. Puritz said she had had no working toilet for five months and was using the bathroom in the park across the street. Ms. Klenfner said: “In the winter we can see our breath inside. I have fibromyalgia and I’m cold like an 80-year-old woman.” She avoided the bathroom sink. Sewer gas came up. She stuffed it with baking soda and put steel wool over the drain. She brushed her teeth in the kitchen sink. Once, she turned the kitchen faucet on and roaches poured out. She kept her dishes and toothpaste in the refrigerator. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 18/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Mr. Klenfner said: “I’m from New York. I expect a few rodents. They were coming under the door, ‘Hey, what’s up, what’s for dinner?’ I found a dead mouse in my bed.” https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe City inspectors identified 218 violations. The women stopped paying rent until theYork landlord resolved the issues. New Their landlord, Abdus Shahid, lives in the building. He said they had damaged their own apartments, including breaking the toilet on purpose. He has brought multiple actions to evict them. Experienced in these proceedings, he would lose one case and begin a new one. Ms. Puritz and Ms. Klenfner got Legal Aid to represent them in 15 separate cases. Like many housing court proceedings, these didn’t follow a straight line, but zigged and zagged and retreated back to where they had begun. One case brought by Legal Aid sought a court-appointed administrator to manage the building, as had happened with another of Mr. Shahid’s buildings. A trio of eviction cases were dismissed by a judge when Legal Aid pointed out that Mr. Shahid had filed documents that appeared to have been notarized by someone who was dead. Ms. Klenfner showed texts from the landlord. One read: “You’re a stupid girl. You’re a foolish girl. I don’t like foolish girls.” Another: “My building is bad, I don’t want somebody will stay in bad building.” When she complained about the lack of heat, he advised her to go down the street, where blankets cost $20. Well, what if she had guests over? Don’t have guests in the winter, he told her. Mr. Shahid has gone through five lawyers. The court, he complains, conspires against him. “I’m from Bangladesh,” he said. “In Bangladesh, I’ve never seen a court like this. It is no good.” Ms. Puritz said: “This has taken its toll. I wasn’t in therapy before. Now I’m in therapy.” Why do they stay? “I don’t have the money to move,” Ms. Puritz said. “And it’s too important to let him win. I’m the sort of person who, when they see something wrong, just gets stuck on it.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 19/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Ms. Klenfner said: “I feel it’s sort of like Frodo and ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I feel we can do this.” Fearful of the electrical wiring, Ms. Puritz slept with a fire extinguisher https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe beside the bed. Once, she found an extension cord on fire. Ms. Klenfner often slept with a light on, hoping it would dissuade the mice and roaches. New York Some nights, as further deterrence, she slid an ammonia-soaked rag beneath the bed. In October, the court agreed to turn the building over to an administrator. The judge declared the living conditions there dangerous and found Mr. Shahid guilty of harassment. At the end of February, the Brooklyn district attorney filed charges of forgery and related offenses against Mr. Shahid, stemming from the allegations that he had used a dead notary’s stamp and signature on court filings to evict tenants. At his arraignment, Mr. Shadid pleaded not guilty. Going to Trial Part Ex, on the fifth floor, was at a standstill. It was the waiting room for the fraction of cases actually destined for trial. “Ex” is for expediter, a term with hollow meaning in housing court. When you report here, it does not mean you will have your trial. When you first come to Part Ex, you receive a number. Then you sit with the other new arrivals to see if there is a trial judge available. “It’s one level of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ — I’m not sure which,” one lawyer said of Part Ex. For those whose numbers aren’t called, lawyers who know the drill will pick a new date far enough in the future — a month or so — to secure a low number next time. A woman named Gloria waited with her son, holding No. 6. Her case had dragged on for many months. Her son has schizoaffective disorder. He hears voices. He lives in a studio apartment in Midwood. She had pictures: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 20/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times A hole near the radiator, emitting a foul sewage smell. Windows falling apart. Leaks. No electricity in the bedroom or bathroom. “I would call management and they would actually insult me,” she said. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe Thus rent was withheld. An eviction action began. A year ago, her son showed up in court alone. He couldn’t understand the goings-on. The New York landlord’s lawyer persuaded him to sign a stipulation agreeing to be evicted. The judge approved it. When Gloria found out, she got it reversed. She told the lawyer: “You’re a vulture. I’ll bet you do this to a lot of people. How dare you!” An agreement was reached that arrears would be paid and repairs done. But she wanted a partial abatement for what her son had endured. “His life has been diminished enough by his disease that he shouldn’t be shortchanged this way too,” she said. She would take $1,000. Her son needed a new bed. The landlord refused even a penny. The landlord’s lawyer strolled in now and asked the clerk, “Anything go on yet?” Told no, he said, “Zippo, huh?” and marched out. He wouldn’t look at Gloria. The clock ticked. People worked their phones. Slept. Snored. A lawyer popped in, saying: “I’ve done bedbugs before. This is maggots.” He had a trial over an abatement for sharing quarters with maggots. Settled by the window was a small landlord, 85, who owned two rentstabilized apartments in a building that had been converted to condominiums. The woman living in one of his units had died and her daughter wished to establish tenancy. He wanted her gone. He hated housing court. He described himself as “a victim of society.” He believed that many tenants were “getting away with thievery.” The landlord had No. 2. He nodded at his lawyer slumped across from him, whose wife was pregnant. “His wife will have the baby before we’re called,” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 21/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times the landlord said. At 3:30 the case was finally called. The trial began, then was postponed when the lawyer’s wife phoned. She was feeling it might be time. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe No other numbers were called. Gloria and her son got a return date a New York month away. “What a spectacle,” she said. “What a disgrace.” ‘That’ How I Live’ In the end, housing court disappoints pretty much everyone, because its resources are inadequate and the core problem it finds is beyond the power of 141 Livingston Street. The court doesn’t build housing. It doesn’t create jobs. It stamps stipulations and wishes everyone a good day. As a judge wrapped up a case involving a woman who had been given four months to move, the tenant added that a drunken neighbor had the habit of bursting into her apartment in his underwear. “I’m just a lowly Housing Court judge,” the judge said. “I have no jurisdiction over people who come into your apartment in their underwear.” And then Princess Codwell. She saw a lot of housing court. Her arrears case had begun in July 2015. The judge had signed 13 extensions and now was signing a 14th. By her latest tally, she owed $5,023 in rent, plus legal fees. A week earlier, she had been evicted. She wound up in a homeless shelter and wanted her apartment back. She was 44, a home health aide. She said she had one primary patient, and whenever that person entered the hospital — which had been happening recently — she didn’t have work. Her rent was $1,300, and she didn’t earn much beyond that. “You know how I live?” she said. “I buy 25-cent bags of peanuts and I wash the salt off because I have high blood pressure. Sometimes I go and beg at the restaurant once they’re done for the day, at 10 at night, and they give me leftovers. That’s how I live.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 22/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Already she had been granted two one-shot deals and was heading to the one-shot room to get a third. It would put her back in her apartment until the next crisis. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe The judge was exasperated (“I’ve given you umpteen times to take care of this”). landlord’s lawyer was churlish (“This is abuse of the system”). NewThe York One could see their point. And one could see hers. She was doing a job that needed doing but that didn’t pay the rent. And so she had a life that didn’t square in today’s Brooklyn. Housing court was a place to come but not to find salvation. Related Coverage Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition MAY 20, 2018 De Blasio Bolsters Affordable Housing, but at What Price? MARCH 4, 2018 On Tenant Blacklist, Errors and Renters With Little Recourse AUG. 16, 2016 © 2018 The New York Times Company 2 SEE MY OPTIONS Subscriber login ARTICLS RMAINING https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 23/23
While I do believe it is more neglect than anything, one could definitely argue that it is inherently racist that this happened, especially in NYCHA. The government doesn't have a lack of funding, they just put the fundings into the things that matter to them, and the NYCHA, that happens mostly minorities, clearly is not the government's priority. That is the racist part, this would not have happened let it have been a predominantly white neighbourhood and if so, a different response to the situation definitely would have happened. Look at a place like Flint, Michigan that has been without clean water for years; do you think this would have happened in Lincoln square Manhattan or a Wall Street area.

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TutorLeal
School: UC Berkeley

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New York Housing cCrisis
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Inequality remains a complicated issue given the fact that it arises from different sources (Held
& Kaya, 2007). However, “social inequalities are differences in income, resources, power, and
status within and between societies. Those in powerful positions maintain such inequalities via
institutions and social processes” (Booth 2013. More so, the gentrification process of NYCHA
buildings as recently revealed has been affecting the health of children living in the building
through the paint used which is increasing their blood lead leve...

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Goes above and beyond expectations !

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