NYCHA : Shame on you

By SUSAN LIPPMAN

This is the third article I am writing about “Vivian,” a longtime resident of the New York City Housing Authority. Vivian is being threatened with eviction through no fault of her own. Never once has she created a disturbance. Never once has she failed to insure that the rent was paid. Nevertheless, the NYCHA authorities wanted her to voluntarily sign a 10-day eviction notice. NYCHA and the de Blasio administration claim that they want to reduce homelessness in the city. Yet, their policies blatantly and sadistically do the reverse.

Here’s a review of Vivian’s history of her residency in a NYCHA apartment. For many years, she resided there with a severely mentally ill brother, whom she diligently cared for and insured that the rent was paid every month. Without her help, “Vinnie,” would undoubtedly have been in much worse shape.

Vinnie died suddenly in a mental institution not long ago, where he had been staying for about a month, due to his deteriorating mental condition.

This is the same apartment in which Vivian’s parents resided for many years until their deaths. It’s the apartment in which she grew up.

I IMPLORE YOU, DEAR READER, TO CALL MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO AND THE NYCHA CHAIRPERSON, SHOLA OLATOYE, AND URGE THEM TO CEASE AND DESIST FROM EVICTING VULNERABLE TENANTS. SIMPLY CALL 3-1-1 AND ASK TO SPEAK TO MAYOR DE BLASIO OR MS. OLATOYE. PLEASE TRY TO PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES, AND REMEMBER THE IMPORTANT ADAGE, ”THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE GO YOU OR I.”

I IMPLORE YOU, DEAR READER, TO CALL MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO AND THE NYCHA CHAIRPERSON, SHOLA OLATOYE, AND URGE THEM TO CEASE AND DESIST FROM EVICTING VULNERABLE TENANTS. SIMPLY CALL 3-1-1 AND ASK TO SPEAK TO MAYOR DE BLASIO OR MS. OLATOYE. PLEASE TRY TO PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES, AND REMEMBER THE IMPORTANT ADAGE, ”THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE GO YOU OR I.”

The problem has been, according to NYCHA’s draconian policies, that the lease was in Vinnie’s name, not Vivian’s. However, a few years ago Vivian had gone to the NYCHA management with documents proving her relationship to her brother, including her birth certificate and her brother’s. Nevertheless, for some strange reason, NYCHA claimed that the evidence she provided wasn’t sufficient but failed to explain what further evidence would be needed. Later on, NYCHA claimed to have lost or never received some of the documentation that Vivian had so carefully provided. Vivian explained that she didn’t appeal the decision, because it would have meant that she would have had to take time off from work and thereby risk losing her job. Vivian’s income is low, and she simply cannot afford to lose her job. NYCHA hearings are always held on Weekdays between the hours of 9 and 5. This makes it quite difficult for working people to present their cases.

Vivian was unfairly denied the right to succession twice, based on the flimsiest of excuses.

Her name was not on the lease, she was told innumerable times, despite her having done everything possible to get her name put on the lease. The second excuse was that it was a one bedroom apartment and, therefore, too crowded for two people. As I reported in a previous article, Vivian and her brother slept in separate rooms, and Vivian assisted with her brother’s care, because his serious mental illness caused him to behave irresponsibly. So, Vivian made sure not only that the rent was paid, but that the apartment remained in good condition. NYCHA's argument about crowding makes absolutely no sense now, since at the moment Vivian is residing there, an apartment that NYCHA claims is appropriate for one person.

Furthermore, after the initial article was written, Progress Queens, the site of the published article, received a call from NYCHA. I spoke with a NYCHA representative by the name of Jasmine Blake, who expressed deep concern for Vivian’s plight and promised to do all she could to help Vivian remain in her apartment. Ms. Blake said that she would be in touch with Vivian directly only a day after the phone call. However, since then, Vivian has heard nothing from Ms. Blake, even though Ms. Blake was given Vivian’s phone number and e-mail address. I made several follow-up calls to and left several messages for Ms. Blake. Ms. Blake has never responded to any of my calls.

How many other responsible NYCHA residents are treated with the same disregard? How could a responsible tenant be expected to find another place to live within 10 days, given the extreme difficulty of finding affordable housing in our city?

Finally, NYCHA appears to have violated its own policies. Vivian was wrongfully denied succession rights twice. She was promised after the second denial that she would have one more opportunity to present her case in Manhattan. However, management wanted her to sign a 10-day eviction notice without even giving her that opportunity. Fortunately, I was with her and she got a temporary reprieve. I am a semi-retired social worker and have been working with Vivian for many years. Ultimately, according to the NYCHA staff, she will need to present her case in Queens Housing Court. That’s a small step in the right direction, but hardly a solution. Note that Queens Housing Court judges are noted to be extremely biased in favor of landlords. I have seen decisions made on behalf of horrible landlords, despite overwhelming evidence that the landlords not only did not provide adequate services, but harassed their tenants, and I’ve seen the judges completely disregard the evidence that was presented to them.

I need to hear from Jasmine Blake immediately. Vivian has been under severe stress, because of the situation in which she finds herself. There is no valid excuse to prevent Vivian from remaining in her apartment permanently.

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