A long-time NYCHA tenant, “Vivian,” endures more harassment in Queens Housing Court
By SUSAN LIPPMAN
I have already written several articles about “Vivian,” who is currently threatened with eviction from a NYCHA apartment in Queens, as her brother, who was the lease holder, had died, and her attempts to get her name on the lease and earlier attempts to get a larger, two bedroom apartment when her brother was still alive, got nowhere.
To summarize, Vivian took care of her very mentally disturbed brother, including such activities as insuring that the rent was paid and that he took his medication every day. Although Vivian had resided in the same housing complex throughout most of her life, she moved out briefly when she was married. Then she moved back in with her brother for a variety of reasons. She had gotten a divorce and had a low income. She definitely could not afford any apartment in the private sector. Furthermore, she was quite aware that her brother’s mental health was deteriorating rapidly, and that he was in danger of being thrown out, as without her assistance he would not pay the rent. “Vinnie” became mentally ill immediately after a stint in the army in Vietnam. His condition was, officially, “paranoid schizophrenic.” He often threatened Vivian with physical violence, but she remained because she was aware of how much help Vinnie needed and because of her own limited income and resources. In fact, Vinnie had wandered off to New Jersey, in a psychotic state, and was picked up there and send to a mental institution, where he remained for several months until his death.
Because of Vivian’s history of having been traumatized as a child and a teenager, living with her brother was extremely stressful for her. However, she persisted and was able to work but needed medication to control her anxiety.
She presented the administration at NYCHA all the documentation they requested to prove that she was, indeed, the decedent’s sister, so she could succeed her bother as leaseholder of the apartment. Her previous requested for larger, two bedroom apartment for her and her brother was ignored by NYCHA. She never got any reply to that request, and she was told that NYCHA never received documentation that she was, in fact, the sister of the deceased. Note that on two occasions I went with her to the authorities to present the documents, which, of course, makes me a witness. Still, NYCHA claimed non-receipt. Something seems a little fishy here.
Vivian was granted a temporary permission to remain for 6 months. However, once the 6 month period expired, she remained and received no word from NYCHA.
She was denied permanent residency, allegedly on the grounds of overcrowding, the fact that she and her brother were residing in a one bedroom apartment. No one ever explained why no one ever responded to Vivian’s official request for a two bedroom apartment. No one ever explained how overcrowding could be an issue now, as her brother is dead and there is one person residing in a one bedroom apartment, which is the way it’s supposed to be, according to NYCHA’s own regulations.
With the threat of eviction and homelessness still looming over Vivian’s head, her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has worsened a lot. Not only that, but she has had to take off quite a bit of time from work to go to Queens Housing Court and to hearings, which only causes her to worry about losing her job. Imagine yourself in her shoes.
Only because Vivian was able to get an excellent, pro-bono attorney, is there light at the end of the tunnel. At the last hearing, NYCHA indicated that it would render a decision within a month or so, but it was extremely likely that the ruling would not be in Vivian’s favor, allegedly due to the so-called “one bedroom” rule, based on the concept of overcrowding when two adults are residing in a one bedroom apartment. However, the argument appears totally capricious and without merit, as often NYCHA has granted permission for caregivers to remain with their needy relatives in a one bedroom apartment, although permanent status is seldom granted. However, the attorney is prepared to appeal the decision, which can take quite a long time, so, although the ultimate outcome is uncertain, at least Vivian will be able to stay in her apartment as long as the appeals process continues, and the lawyer explained that such a procedure can go on for a few years.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) talks a lot about the need to reduce homelessness, yet NYCHA’s policies only increase homelessness. Indeed, if the current administration really wants to reduce homelessness, why is homelessness at an all time high ? Furthermore, public-private partnerships are proceeding apace when it comes to NYCHA housing, such as the desire for private developers to build on NYCHA properties and converting NYCHA apartments to Section 8, which, ultimately can lead to market rate rents even in public housing. Public-private partnerships are really private-private partnerships, despite nice sounding euphemisms. 3
See the Aponte vs. Olatoye case, and read for yourself the arbitrary ruling by NYCHA, with absolutely no regard for the rights of its longterm residents. Note that there was concern that a ruling denying succession and permanent residency to a relative and longtime tenant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Apparently, that was of no concern to the NYCHA bureaucrats.
Please contact NYCHA and demand that Vivian and all others in similar situations be immediately granted permanent residents in their homes.
Vivian’s case was dismissed, as expected, and the attorney is now filing an appeal.