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The Bronx Eviction Mill

March 19, 2013

On Friday, March 15, I attended a presentation at New Settlement Community Center, which was being built near my regular subway stop, Mount Eden Avenue, when I last had my own apartment in New York city.  It opened last December.  It was the release of a new report titled Tipping the Scales:  A Report of Tenant Experiences in Bronx Housing Court, which was produced by community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), Community Development Project (CDP) at the Urban Justice Center.  Most of my housing court experience went out in the messages to my entire address book that got me kicked out of the church choir.  I had barely begun my blog, and only because someone asked if I could help them with WordPress for pay, something that, at the time, was completely new to me, although I didn’t learn it in time to help her.

Some things that I learned at the presentation are that my railroading through the system was very normal.  99% of tenants are unrepresented, while only landlord attorneys and not the landlords themselves, come to court in 99 out of 100 cases.   The landlord attorneys call you and present themselves as though they are employees of the court, and then proceed to intimidate you into signing documents that are not in your best interests.  They tell you that they are, and such advice is actually illegal.  It is extremely common and merits a sanction from the bar, but attorneys look the other way, and tenants don’t have the knowledge to deal with the situations.  It is estimated that the city would save $88 million per year on the shelter system if all tenants had a court-appointed attorney, but the city insists that it does not have there resources even to provide badges to identify court personnel.  This is an outright lie.  The system is too much of a cash cow for this to be a valid excuse.  Every courtroom has a plastic placard demanding that men remove their hats, and I have seen security enforce this antiquated policy in earnest. It is impossible for an intelligent and honest person to believe that a man wearing a hat in a courtroom is a greater problem than a person or family being illegally duped into losing their home.

There has been no reasonable explanation why court personnel can’t carry badges to help tenants distinguish them from landlord attorneys or court-appointed attorneys.  I and most other tenants learned too late that the person to which I was talking was not a court-appointed attorney that we expect to get from what we have seen of criminal cases in the media.  While non-payment of rent is against the law, it is a civil offense, not a criminal one. Conversely, we are frequently told that in New York City, the courts have a tendency to side with the tenant.  The report implies that there is no evidence that this is true.  The Bronx was also compared negatively to Manhattan and Brooklyn, in which all tenants come before a judge, whereas in the Bronx, only 43% do.  I guess I can consider myself lucky in that regard, since I came before a judge (the same judge) every time I was in housing court.

The majority of cases are resolved via deals in the hallway called stipulations, or “stip” for short.  The landlord’s attorney tells you that the apartmnet will be repossessed in a matter of days if you do not sign it, when it often is not true.  If only I knew then what I know now…  Legally, the tenant has the right to participate in writing the agreement, and have every part of it made clear before they agree to anything.  Those who don’t sign are usually those who are present 3+ hours before the building opens and can get into the legal aid lottery.  Much of what legal aid does is get people back to square one by nullifying the stipulation and drawing up better terms.  Of course, only 1 in 100 tenants ever gets this opportunity.

Thanks to Jana Herzen, I could demonstrate that I was employed and get a one-shot deal that paid my rental arrears, but she let me go on the grounds that I needed more marketing training.  As a result, I was served with another eviction notice in January 2012.  By then, I had received my rent renewal forms.  My rent had been jacked up from $981.93 to $1,018.75.  when I rented this rent-stabilized apartment, the rent was $950, and the rent was retroactively raised to $964 and change, and I was eventually forced to pay this markup, which was illegal, because the lease had no rider explaining that there had been capital improvements that would result in a small raise in the rent.  I was struggling to pay the $981.93, and that’s when I felt that I had made the right choice to turn down the $8.50 hourly data entry position with GoodTemps and to take my chances working for Amit Kumar’s 69 Productions in Jacksonville, Florida.

Just yesterday, I was contacted by someone who knows Amit Kumar who was very disturbed about what they had read about Mr. Kumar in my blog.  I was questioned about his relationship with Nita Parikh, which I admitted was group speculation.  This person thought that Nita was his mentor and not his girlfriend.  Their relationship seemed more like mentoring in the Ancient Greek sense, but in spite of the attitude toward sex presented in Kumar’s papers, I certainly never saw the two of them kiss, although they looked to me and the other employees like a couple, although Nita is older than Amit.  My brother’s first wife was much older than he was, too (nobody ever let me in on her age, however), with a son only a few years younger than me, so this sort of thing doesn’t surprise me.

It is not, however, speculation in regard to the way he treated me.  The only reason I didn’t sue was because an attorney said that too much of this was my word against his, although my word, if true, made clear that Mr. Kumar’s treatment of me was illegal in addition to unethical.  While Kumar seems irreligious, Nita’s Hinduism is on clear display in her office, which makes the karmic element all the more ironic.  Nate, the fleet manager whose business card I displayed in an earlier entry, had a tendency to gripe about “Hindu bosses,” as well.

I had an argument with someone on YouTube about what was true for the majority of homeless people.  He insisted that the vast majority are addicts and mentally ill, and concluded that I must be one simply because I was given a mandatory psychological evaluation last Wednesday–the negative result was irrelevant to him because he is an anti-intellectual fool that puts more credence in armchair diagnoses than mental health professionals–people like him are probably the reason psychology is such a terrible degree in the job market at the present time.  I maintained that the primary cause of homelessness is greedy landlords, banks, real estate speculators, and attorneys.  After much prodding, my opponent presented his statistics.  For each condition, the percentage was fewer than 40%, and only became a majority, and a small one at that, once they were all lumped together:

 

firespinguy

firespinguy 19 hours ago

I didn’t see you ask and I can’t post links on this video. Search on google for the article “Who is Homless” homeless(do.t)samhsa(do.t)gov:

•38% report alcohol use problems

•26% report other drug use problems

•39% report some form of mental health problems (20-25% meet criteria for serious mental illness)

•66% report either substance use and/or mental health problems

So you saying mental illness and drug abuse is not common among the homeless is obviously wrong.

Note here that he claims that I said that mental illness and drug abuse are (his grammar sucks, too) not common among homeless people.  I never made this claim.  I said only that his “vast majority” statement was dubious, and his own numbers bear that out.  He continues to hammer on the idea that I am unpleasant and mentally ill, when his conversation with me has been consistently uncivil, and his claim of mental illness in my case is disputed by, among others, Alexandria Dougherty, a clinical psychiatric nurse (who works at the shelter); Larry Hess, a neuropsychologist (to whom I was sent when I sought the help of ACCES (formerly VESID), an organization designed to help people with disabilities get employed, in 2011); and Lucy Prager, a psychoanalyst (sister of a friend I met at Christmas, who formed that opinion from that informal setting).  Unfortunately, this imbecilic anti-intellectual, an accountant with no college degree, just brags and brags about how he has five houses and gets along with his parents, even though he is much older than me and entered a much livelier job market than I did. I believe very strongly that the 44% figure of those homeless without mental health or substance abuse problems will increase, and probably already has, as more people get foreclosed upon and evicted because they are unable to keep up with cost of living increases.

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