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Brooklyn Tenants United held a protest demanding that Brooklyn housing court be reformed

Tenants and pols: Renovate housing court

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn’s housing court, where judges are supposed to settle landlord-tenant arguments with an even hand, is doing little more than helping building owners throw renters out on the street, according to activists and local pols.

A coalition of tenant organizations and elected officials descended on Borough Hall on Thursday evening to put housing court on trial with a mock hearing meant to send the message that the system needs reform now.

“I think the housing court forgot why it was set up in the first place,” said Delcina Biggs, a Pratt Area Community Council tenant leader who spent four years fighting off a bogus eviction. “Now it’s all about landlords getting their money.”

Housing court handles complaints from landlords trying to toss their tenants and from renters who have trouble getting owners to fix up their buildings. Advocates contend that the system is slanted in favor of owners, which they say you can see clear as day if you consider the fact that 14 of 15 courtrooms in Brooklyn’s housing court are dedicated to eviction proceedings, while just one handles tenant complaints.

“Equality does not live in housing court right now,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosely (D–Fort Greene), in his testimony at the elaborate fake hearing in Borough Hall’s ceremonial courtroom, where, incidentally, court scenes on the TV show “Law and Order” were filmed.

Tenant leaders posed as witnesses and talked about the issues tenants encounter in the courts after remarks from Borough President Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, and other officials.

Biggs’ story has as many twists and turns as advocates say the court system does. She lived in the same rent-stabilized apartment on E. 17th Street in Flatbush for 30 years and her landlord never pursued a major rent increase. But when her building was bought in 2009, the new owner tried to get her to sign bogus leases dating back five years in order to justify a massive rent hike.

When she refused, he tried to evict her. The case dragged on for years.

“It had become so twisted because everything was based on fraudulent papers,” said Michael Grinthal, a lawyer for Mobilization For Youth Legal Services, which provides legal representation to people who cannot afford attorneys.

The eviction bid was eventually thrown out, but without a connection to an advocacy group like the Pratt Area Community Council, who got Grinthal involved, Biggs might still be fighting it, said Jonathon Furlong, an organizer with the council.

The problem of landlord supremacy extends to the courthouse at 141 Livingston St., said the pols, pointing out that the city rents the building from David Bistricer, a big-time landowner who made now-Mayor DeBlasio’s list of worst landlords in the city back in 2010, when DeBlasio was public advocate. The space is run-down, too small to handle today’s caseloads, and is difficult for disabled people to access, tenants said. They demanded more translators, better legal services, and easier access to information about how the byzantine court proceedings work.

The protest was organized by Brooklyn Tenants United, a consortium of community organizations from across the borough that includes Saint Nick’s Alliance, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, and the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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Reasonable discourse

Brooklyn real.......... from Downtown says:
Yeah ok , after having worked in housing court on saeveral occasions tenants are givin so many chances to do right by the landlord , they dont pay, destroy, and make up bulls...t stories on how they are always the victim. oh give me a break and get your self together . Part 2 Many landlords are rotten to the core slum lords ,if its that bad move out and sue after the fact ...................
March 14, 2014, 10:49 pm
Marvin Jenkins says:
So they can't be bothered to learn the rules or English, and their demand is that everyone serves them?
Seems pricey and pointless.
The number of eviction hearings is related to the number of people who don't pay rent or seriously violate their leases.
March 15, 2014, 8:07 am
T-Bone from DoBro says:
This is the funniest joke I've heard all week.
March 15, 2014, 8:26 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Well, you've got a lot of angry people out there who don't pay their rent and don't learn English. A lot of gaming the system for a free ride.
March 15, 2014, 11:42 am
AJK from Boerum Hill says:
This is not a one-sided issue.
Serving as a guardian-ad-litem for many tenants, one surprising observation is that a large majority of landlords are really small-time owners, many living in the same building. A non-paying tenant can cause real financial hardship in these smaller building.
March 15, 2014, 1:52 pm
Charles from PS says:
This is totally unfair to the Civil Court of NYC. Bottom line: Tenants are protected by the housing court. If you lose your housing in court, you definitely were given all the breaks and then some. In the end, you have to pay your rent. And Yes, tenants need more representation. However, there are very few injustices that are not addressed by the housing court.
March 16, 2014, 9:05 am
Broolyn real. from downtown says:
Im going to rent an apartment ,live there for 6 months not pay my rent after the first month , too bad and then do it again .thats enough of this scam , its all a scam and you that pay the rent are the real victim ..............
March 16, 2014, 6:29 pm
Despinetta says:
Brooklyn Real has it right. I had to evict a non-paying tenant from my garden floor apt years ago, and she turned out to be running precisely the same scam BR described. It took six months in Housing Court to get her out, and I never got the rent - while she blasted music all night, making it impossible for me and my neighbors to sleep, and demanded that I pay her thousands to vacate. Meanwhile, she complained to Pratt Area Community Council (which never bothered to inspect the perfectly clean, renovated apartment, but "represented" her just the same), stating she felt "insecure." As if tenant psychosis is an excuse for not paying rent. She actually turned off the radiators, filed a no heat complaint, and then had it inspected by the City - and I live upstairs, so how likely is it that there was no heat? But the City never checked the radiator valves, and I got written up as supplying no heat. As a result, I decided to never give a tenant a lease again - only month to month. It's worked like a charm. I have a nice, long term, respectful and clean tenant who doesn't bother me and pays her rent on time. And in the unlikely event that she should go nuts like the last one, she's out.
March 18, 2014, 8:57 am
LJP from Bed Stuy says:
The courts are slanted towards Landlords? I had a tenant that was never on the lease and it took 7 months to evict. In court, she signed a stipulation then never lived up to it. We lost around $12k due to this person. No one ever talks about the small landlord. There are plenty of landlords that are honest and get screwed. If you have a two or three family and you lose 6-9 months of rent, you could go into foreclosure. Why should the courts favor the tenant versus the landlord in this scenario?
March 18, 2014, 10:13 am
Democrats help the DB on your Dime from Brooklyn, NY says:
That's because Democrats help the deadbeats on your dime.
You don't get BS like this in the blue states.
July 28, 2015, 9:47 am
jango from Do or die says:
Judge Cheryl Gonzales failed to appear in Housing Court on August 21, 2017. Causing adjournments. Reason stated: something came up. We need better judges.
Aug. 26, 7:24 am

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