Federal Judge Stays Deportation of Edisson Barros, Father of Two & Veteran New York City Cab Driver

 Edisson Barros is pictured with his daughter Paola at her high school graduation.    Photo courtesy of Paola Barros/GoFundMe

Edisson Barros is pictured with his daughter Paola at her high school graduation. 

Photo courtesy of Paola Barros/GoFundMe

The Legal Aid Society announced Friday morning that Katherine Polk Failla, United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, issued a stay of deportation late Thursday night for Edisson Barros, a 25-year native of Queens, father of two, and veteran New York City cab driver who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last month and had been scheduled for immediate removal back to Ecuador.

Mr. Barros was issued a summons for a mere desk ticket after a dispute as he protected his beloved family dog from a reckless motorist. Following the incident, Mr. Barros dutifully appeared in court to successfully contest the charges, but was subsequently arrested by ICE when leaving court.

Mr. Barros was originally detained at Hudson County Correctional Facility but was recently transferred to an ICE facility in Louisiana, far from his family, for removal. The stay of removal is in place pending the outcome of this litigation.

Gregory Copeland, Sarah Gillman, Jennifer Williams, Allison Wilkinson, and Ramya Ravishankar with Legal Aid’s Immigration Law Unit represent Mr. Barros.

“We welcome this decision affording Mr. Barros a genuine opportunity to stay in this country while he fights his immigration case,” said Gregory Copeland, Supervising Attorney with the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Mr. Barros’ case is yet another troubling example of this federal Administration’s cruel war to separate families, whether at the southern border or here in this sanctuary city. We look forward to ensuring that Mr. Barros remains in New York City – his home for more than 25 years - with his family and community.”

“I am greatly relieved that Mr. Barros has been granted a stay. He is a dedicated family man and by all accounts a valued member of his community. It is my hope that his family and attorneys can now see him quickly returned to New York. I will continue pressing for a favorable outcome in this case,” said Congress Member Nydia M. Velázquez.

“The ultimate goal is to reunite Edisson with his family. But first a stay of deportation was needed, and thanks to the incredible and tireless work of the Legal Aid Society, the Barros family now has a fighting chance,” said City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “It’s important to remember how we got to this point, which was due to the family’s own advocacy, the elevation of their cause by activists and the press, and the help of my colleagues in government, particularly Council Member Francisco Moya and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. This victory is proof once again of an important truth: that ICE is not all powerful, that we have the tools to defend the most vulnerable among us, and that when we unite our efforts we can achieve anything on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

"This monumental victory is the culmination of dedicated grassroots organizing and people coming together for what is morally right. We will continue fighting to ensure Edisson's freedom, and for the dignity of all undocumented immigrants," said Carlos Jesus Calzadilla-Palacio, President of Young Progressives of America.

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Gothamist: Video: NYPD Detective Allegedly Puts Man In Chokehold After Noise Complaint

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An NYPD detective who has been sued multiple times for using excessive force allegedly placed an Inwood man in a chokehold and then shot him with a Taser gun last month while responding to a noise complaint.

According to a criminal complaint, 33-year-old Tomas Medina was outside a car dealership at 438 West 206th Street around midnight on July 14th when Detective Fabio Nunez and Officer Shanee Pierce responded to a complaint of loud music.

“They told me the neighbors complained about the music,” Medina told the Daily News, which first reported the story. “I told him I was already picking everything up to go.”

At around the 11:39 mark in the video below, which was provided by Medina's attorneys at the Legal Aid Society, Detective Nunez approaches Medina from behind, grabs him by the neck, and pushes him into the side of a car.

As Medina appears to resist and protest his treatment, Detective Nunez appears to put Medina in a chokehold, which are explicitly prohibited by the NYPD patrol guide.

Later, the detective seems to draw his Taser gun, and shoot Medina, shocking him. The two exit the frame as bystanders gather and record the encounter, and uniformed NYPD officers swarm the scene.

“He just started choking me. I couldn’t breathe," Medina told the News.

Medina was charged with felony assault of an officer and resisting arrest. The criminal complaint against him alleges that Detective Nunez was "attempting to place [Medina] under arrest for disorderly conduct relating to playing music at an excessive volume," and that Medina bit the Detective's finger and hit Officer Pierce in the eye.

Court documents show that the City has paid out more than $250,000 in five separate settlements since 2005 related to Detective Nunez's conduct; one case involved hitting a man with a baton, another involved a broken arm, another involved a home invasion.

The Manhattan DA's office, which is prosecuting the case against Medina, sent a letter to Legal Aid attorneys this year stating that Detective Nunez may have lied under oath in 2009. That case involved Detective Nunez pulling over a livery cab and chasing and arresting its passenger for drug possession. According to the letter, Detective Nunez claimed that he had never spoken to the cab driver before the arrest occurred, and that he pulled the car over because it had its robbery light on. But the driver would testify that he never engaged his robbery light, and that Nunez pulled up to him earlier that evening to ask questions about his fare. The DA's office declined to charge Nunez for lying.

Detective Nunez, who has been a police officer for 18 years, is currently listed as a "neighborhood coordination officer" for the 34th Precinct.

Medina's arrest occurred one day after the NYPD decided to move forward with departmental charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was involved in the fatal choking of Staten Island man Eric Garner in 2014.

Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney with Legal Aid's Criminal Special Litigation Unit, and one of Medina's attorneys, told Gothamist that there have been at least 48 chokehold allegations against the NYPD in federal court since Garner's death, costing the City more than a half a million dollars in settlements.

"Even though it rose to everyone's attention in 2014 as a prohibited use of force, it still hasn't stopped being used by officers, and it has been named in multiple allegations in lawsuits since," Conti-Cook said.

She added that the fact that Detective Nunez is supposed to be part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's community policing initiative "substantiates what we've been hearing from traditionally targeted communities about neighborhood policing."

"It isn't all basketball games and block parties. Many of the patterns of abusive policing still persist."

Both officers in Medina's case appear to be wearing body cameras, according to the video footage, but Conti-Cook said the Manhattan DA's office said that the footage does not exist. The NYPD's shielding of disciplinary records means that the public does not know if Detective Nunez has been brought up on internal charges before (a search of a BuzzFeed News database of leaked records did not yield any results).

A spokesperson for Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. declined to comment because the case is still pending.

After Garner's death, a 2015 report by the New York City Department of Investigation and the NYPD's Inspector General's Office found that the NYPD's disciplinary process related to chokeholds yielded "inconsistent results," and recommended that the department work more closely with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and that officers undergo de-escalation retraining.

The NYPD responded to that report with a letter stating that eventually all 35,000 uniformed officers would receive the three-day training every year. Just last week, the CCRB released a memo flatly stating that if a chokehold is substantiated in a case, they would recommend disciplinary action.

An NYPD spokesperson did not respond to questions about Detective Nunez's disciplinary record or the lack of body camera footage, and sent us this statement instead:

  • Police officers responded to the Washington Heights location over a loud noise complaint. The suspect physically resisted arrest for a prolonged period of time. One officer was bitten by the suspect. Despite officers continued attempts to deescalate the situation, the suspect continued to resist arrest. The suspect was uninjured, and was eventually placed under arrest and taken into custody. The incident is under review.

Medina's next court date is September 13.

Pix 11: Wrongfully convicted New Yorkers call on Cuomo to sign bill aiming to hold prosecutors accountable

Wrongfully convicted New Yorkers stood side-by-side with officials Monday demanding Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign a bill that would make prosecutors accountable for misconduct and for withholding evidence.

New York Assemblyman Nick Perry along with nonprofits The Legal Aid Society, Innocence Project and The Bronx Defenders, and wrongfully convicted New Yorkers who were incarcerated 278 years collectively were among those calling on Cuomo to pass the bill Monday.

The governor has one week, until Aug. 20, to sign it.

Legislation was brought to Cuomo on Aug. 8 after passing both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support. In June, the New York State Assembly gave final passage to the bill in an 86 to 35 vote.

The bill aims to make prosecutors accountable for misconduct and for withholding evidence, and if signed into law Andrew Cuomo, would create a prosecutorial oversight commission.

For six years Perry and State Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse worked tirelessly on the bill, both saying they were motivated by the large number of men and women exonerated of their crimes in recent years, the majority of whom lost years of their lives due in large part to prosecutorial misconduct.

Perry said their stories were bothersome to him for years.

Jeff Deskovic, wrongfully convicted in 1990 when he was only 17 years old, sat among others who were once wrongfully convicted in Albany while the decision was made back in June.

“It was an emotional moment," Deskovic, who spent 16 years behind bars, said. "We were all elated. We were all clapping. We held hands. The waterworks started for some of us.

NY Times: How Trump’s Plan for Immigrants on Welfare Could Hurt a Million New Yorkers

 PHOTO: MARIAN CARRASQUERO | THE NEW YORK TIMES

PHOTO: MARIAN CARRASQUERO | THE NEW YORK TIMES

Buying fresh vegetables for children, heating an apartment, using Medicaid to manage diabetes. Those are all legal means of support provided by the government for low-income residents of the United States.

But a new rule in the works from the Trump administration would make it difficult, if not impossible, for immigrants who use those benefits to obtain green cards.

New York City officials estimated that at least a million people here could be hurt by this plan, warning that the children of immigrants seeking green cards would be most vulnerable.

That’s because if applicants use any welfare benefits, even for children who are United States citizens, that could indicate they would be a burden on government resources. “What feels deeply concerning,” said Bitta Mostofi, New York City’s commissioner of immigrant affairs, “is the impact on the welfare of children, period.”

Since only leaked drafts of the rule have been available and the final version is still weeks away from being published, the full effects are not calculable. But here is what we do know:

What is the current rule? The administration’s plan is based on the more than 100-year-old law of “public charge,” later defined by government guidance in 1999: A person who is very likely to become “primarily dependent” on government services cannot become a legal permanent resident. The rule also applies to visa applicants from abroad or people seeking to extend a temporary visa within the United States.

Currently, only cash benefits, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or long-term institutional care are factors considered when determining if a person is likely to become a “public charge.”

The rule as it stands now excludes benefits such as immunizations and free or reduced-price school lunches. Unauthorized immigrants are already ineligible for nearly all public benefits.

How could the rule change? The proposal is set to also include: children’s health insurance; Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Plan (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps); Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC; tax credits for low- to moderate-income families; and housing and transit subsidies. Any applicant — or any dependent — who has used such benefits in the past 36 months could be ineligible.

Details about the proposed rule come from an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan could still change.

Immigration caseworkers place more weight on those factors than others, like age and health, in determining whether green card candidates are most likely to become dependent on government assistance.

Why is the administration doing this? The administration does not want to admit immigrants who would be a burden to American taxpayers or take away benefits that could be used for citizens. More than half of all immigrant households use one or more public benefits, according to the administration, referencing a 2012 study from the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit research group that advocates restrictions on immigration.

“The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S. are self-sufficient,” said Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Who is at risk? There are about 400,000 New Yorkers who live in households totaling 1 million people who receive at least one federal public benefit out of 10 possible benefits, according to city documents shared with The New York Times.

In May, New York City officials presented those numbers to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the rule for publication. The city emphasized it was a conservative estimate based on 2016 data.

According to a 2018 city report, approximately a million people live in a household where at least one person is an undocumented immigrant.

“It doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to advance a lofty goal of health and safety for everybody to parse out documented, undocumented,” Ms. Mostofi said.

Teresa, 54, who came from Honduras in 1994, and is in the country legally with temporary protected status, uses Medicaid for her diabetes.

She asked to be identified only by her first name so as not to jeopardize her green card eligibility. Her daughter, a United States citizen who is an auxiliary police officer with the New York Police Department, would sponsor her.

She said she pays taxes, and works as a waitress and takes care of children.

“This is a humiliation, what Trump is doing for the people that are using it,” Teresa said last week in Spanish in the offices of her lawyers at the Legal Aid Society of New York. “Because if someone has worked here they should have the right to these benefits.”

Most public benefits are only intended to be temporary, to help people who may already have jobs become self-sufficient. WIC helps women pay for food and provides education and doctor referrals, and does not ask for immigration status.

Diana Martinez, 35, works as a breast-feeding counselor at the Ridgewood location of a WIC clinic for Public Health Solutions, a nonprofit providing services to 40,000 people in New York City.

Ms. Martinez used WIC four years ago when she was pregnant with her son and when she was a green card holder, from Nicaragua. She is now a citizen.

“We are talking about the health of children,” Ms. Martinez said. “There shouldn’t be anything negative about that.”

But yet, she added, people told her they are still fearful of enrolling in public benefits because the government would have their information.

Will this plan actually go through? When the government publishes the rule, there will still be a public comment period.

Already, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared he would sue if the administration penalizes people accepting “basic safety net provisions.”

Susan Welber, a lawyer in the Law Reform unit at Legal Aid, reminds clients that the rule has not changed yet.

“We want to make sure that they understand that between a rule that may change in the future and the very real needs that they and their family members have now, they should take care of their families,” she said.

Correction: August 13, 2018 An earlier version of this article misstated the number of households in which immigrants who could be affected by a Trump administration plan live, it is households totaling approximately 1 million residents, not 1 million households. Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a picture caption with this article misstated the status of Teresa, who uses Medicaid for her diabetes. She has temporary protected status. She is not an undocumented immigrant.

Patch: UWS Tenants Win Legal Battle Against Landlord Who Raised Rents

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A state court has sided with residents of an Upper West Side apartment building who took their landlord to court over unlawful rent increases.

The tenants of 435 Central Park West, located between West 103rd and 104th streets, were subject to annual rent increases of 7.5 percent, forcing many to leave the building, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society said. The New York State Appellate Division ruled this month that the building's 120 apartments should be subject to the state's rent stabilization laws, which would have prevented the large increases.

The ruling will allow the Legal Aid Society to argue for rent reductions and refunds for tenants who lived and still live in the building, a spokesperson for the organization said. The building's tenant assocaiation was represented by Legal Aid's Jason Wu, who squared off against former Stanford Law School dean Kathleen Sullivan.

"Landlords who abuse loopholes in the law to circumvent rent stabilization protections are a key part of the affordable housing crisis in NYC. The court's decision that 435 Central Park West is subject to rent stabilization is a tremendous victory for our clients and all New Yorkers. This win reflects the perseverance of our clients who did not give up, and it is a reminder to all tenants of how important organizing and collective action," Wu said in a statement.

During legal arguments the building's landlord admitted that nearly three quarters of the building's apartments have turned over since 2000, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society said. Tenants who stayed in the building despite the increases, some of whom had lived there for more than 40 years, were forced to either move out or cut down on other costs.Many feared the next increase would be their last.

"This illegal rent hike put my family and neighbors through so much unnecessary distress. And as 36 year resident, I come to find out how the landlord has been overcharging seniors and long term tenants like me for decades, illegally," tenant Maria Cruz said in a statement. "I am beyond grateful the court found our building is subject to rent stabilization."

The apartment building at 435 Central Park West was built in 1969 and financed by a below-market interest rate mortgage from the federal government. Use of the mortgage and a federal grant taken in 1980 required landlords to follow restrictions that guaranteed apartments for low- and moderate-income tenants. As long as the federal mortgage was in effect, New York State's rent stabilization laws were preempted.

When landlords paid off the federal mortgage in 2000 they entered into an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development that said the landlord would maintain affordability restrictions until 2011, when the mortgage term would end. Lawyers representing tenants argued that by pre-paying the mortgage the preemption of state rent stabilization laws should have ceased, and the building should have been eligible for rent-stabilization since 2000.

The Appellate Division ruled that the building should have been eligible for rent-stabilization in 2011 when the terms of the federal loan expired. Lawyers for the landlord argued that rent stabilization laws should be preempted until 2026, but the court disagreed.

Daily News: Melania Trump's parents are sworn in as U.S. citizens

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First Lady Melania Trump’s parents were sworn in Thursday as newly-minted Americans — achieving U.S. citizenship through a process the President has strongly denounced.

Viktor Knavs, 73, and his wife Amalija, 71, took the naturalization oath in a private ceremony at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan.

"They have travelled a wonderful journey like many have, like millions have,” said lawyer Michael Wildes, standing outside the building with the Slovenian couple.

"We just thank everyone for their attention to this very important dialogue on immigration. This is an example of it going right.”

The Knavses were granted permanent residence through sponsorship by Melania Trump, who is an American citizen.

Adult U.S. citizens are currently permitted to petition for residency for their parents, married children and adult siblings.

President Trump, who has made tightening the U.S. borders a key effort of his administration, has ripped that process as a threat to U.S. security and called for its elimination.

Long known as family reunification, Trump has derisively labeled the program “chain migration.”

Immigration advocates were quick to highlight the apparent hypocrisy of the President’s parents-in-law benefiting from a program he has vowed to end.

“If it’s true that Melania Trump’s parents obtained their green cards though her, and then they subsequently naturalized, this is exactly the sort of extended family migration that Trump derided as chain migration,” said Hasan Shafiqullah, who heads the Immigration Law Unit at the Legal Aid Society.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy for him to be criticizing extended family migration when his wife is availing herself of the laws that allow exactly that.”

Just last week, the President railed against “chain migration” in a fact-challenged rant at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

“You have chain migration,” Trump said. “You know what that is? A guy comes in — stone-cold killer in many cases. A guy comes in, and then you have to bring his aunt, his uncle, his father, his grandfather, his grandparents, his third niece by a different marriage.”

The First Lady’s path to citizenship still remains shrouded in mystery.

Wildes, who also represented Melania, told Univision in Aug. 2016 that the former model received her green card “based on” marriage in 2001. That claim immediately raised eyebrows because there was no indication she had been in a marriage before exchanging vows with Donald Trump in 2005.

A month after Wildes’ claim, Melania Trump posted on social media a letter attributed to him that claimed she received an elite EB-1 program reserved for applicants with "an extraordinary ability.”

“Mrs. Trump did not receive her green card through marriage. Rather, in 2000, she self-sponsored herself for a green card as a model of ‘extraordinary ability,’ and on March 19, 2001, she was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident,” the letter said.

Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, asked to clarify how the First Lady received her green card, said she doesn’t comment “on her parents as they are not part of the administration and deserve privacy.”

An email reminding Grisham that the question focused on the First Lady herself was not returned.

WSJ: New York City Launches Voter Registration Drive in Jails

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has laid out a new voter registration drive in the city’s correctional facilities.

Eligible inmates will be able to directly sign up to vote and have their absentee ballots picked up from jail. In the past, these forms and ballots were sent through regular mail, where security measures could cause delays.

Inmates would register to vote using their home address, the mayor said. Those who have prior felony convictions wouldn’t be eligible to vote.

The debate over restoring voting rights for people who have been convicted of a felony or who are on parole has been playing out across several states.

In New York, the goal is to increase voter participation and is part of a larger effort, dubbed DemocracyNYC, that also seeks to change state law to allow same-day voter registration.

On Monday, volunteers from the Campaign Finance Board and the Legal Aid Society—who are all part of the voter drive—displayed posters and handed out information to inmates about registering to vote. Libraries in jails will also be stocked with information on candidates for upcoming elections.

Thousands of people could register under the new initiative. The Department of Correction couldn’t tell for certain how many of its more than 8,000 inmates in custody are eligible to vote, since it doesn’t ask for citizenship status, a department spokesman said.

However, 2,000 people in custody are currently ineligible to vote because they have been sentenced on a felony charge or are on parole.

“Reminding the incarcerated that their vote matters is a powerful way of reinforcing their ties to our community and is just as important as the many job training and re-entry programs we offer every day,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann.

Also on Monday, Mr. de Blasio signed a bill that makes all phone calls from jail free for inmates, which he said was another step to improving in the rehabilitation process.

Celebrating The National LGBT Bar Association’s 30th Annual Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair

 Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society, addressing the reception.

Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society, addressing the reception.

Last week, The National LGBT Bar Association held their 30th Annual Lavender Law Conference and Career fair here in New York City. The Legal Aid Society was proud to participate in this incredible event.

Jason Wu, Staff Attorney in the Harlem Community Law Office, was recognized by The National LGBT Bar Association as one of the “Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40” and was at the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40, Leading Practitioners, and Student Awards Luncheon.

To celebrate Jason, our staff participants in the conference, and to celebrate our community, The Legal Aid Society and Skadden Arps hosted a cocktail reception at the Marriott Marquis on August 9. The speakers included were:

Jared Trujillo - CDP Staff Attorney and ALAA LGBTQ Representative
Josue Pierre - New York’s 42nd Assembly District Leader
Gavin White - tax partner from Skadden and member of the Skadden’s Diversity Committee

It was a fantastic night where many members of the LGBT+ community and their allies showed up in solidarity and support of all the great work being done by the Legal Aid Society Skadden Arps and our community partners.

During this national convening of litigation and advocacy experts, members of all three practices of our organization were on panels discussing our work. Jared Trujillo and Michael Gibbons, criminal defense attorneys, joined other public defenders and civil rights attorneys to discuss litigation and advocacy of LGBTQI+ clients especially clients of color. Juvenile Rights Practice Attorney, Danielle King, presented on the crisis of the overrepresentation of LGBTQI+ youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Criminal Defense Practice Attorney, Rage Kidvai spoke on a panel that discusses Career Services and job strategies for Law Students. Our attorneys and supervisors recruited future public defenders and offered career counseling to law students at the Career Fair.

Legal Aid Wins Appellate Court Victory Preserving 120 Rent Stabilized Apartments In Manhattan For Low-Income Seniors

The Legal Aid Society announced a major tenant victory today on a housing case in New York State Appellate Court that will preserve 120 rent stabilized apartments for low-income tenants on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

This action was initially brought in 2016 against an unscrupulous landlord and sought a determination that this property 435 Central Park West was subject to the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL). A lower court ruled with plaintiff and New York’s Appellate Division upheld that the property is subject to rent stabilization.

Background

After years of onerous rent increases of 7.5 percent annually, residents at the development were struggling to make ends meet, putting them at risk of losing their homes that some have lived in since 1971. The landlord acknowledged the enormous displacement in their legal brief, citing that “nearly 90 of the 120 apartments at Park Front have turned over since the year 2000.” The plaintiffs represent some of the last remaining long term tenants, and had we not won this decision they would no longer be able to afford the increasing rents.

The tenants sought assistance from The Legal Aid Society, who successfully argued that the building is subject to the RSL, and, that the landlord and its predecessors failed to register the building in compliance with the RSL. The Court’s finding that the owners annually imposed rent increases (here 7.5% per year) substantially in excess of the increases permitted by the RSL, will allow The Legal Aid Society to establish that the tenants were significantly overcharged and entitled, not only to a reduction in their monthly rent and refund of overpaid rents, but also potentially to treble damages.

Government housing regulators including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and New York State’s Department of Home and Community Renewal (DHCR) failed to protect these tenants and provide necessary oversight allowing the landlord to exploit loopholes year-after-year to illegally increase rents.

This landlord has a troublesome track record on tenant issues, including refusing to accept Section 8 program funds from a prior Legal Aid client, in blatant violation of local laws banning income discrimination.

“Landlords who abuse loopholes in the law to circumvent rent stabilization protections are a key part of the affordable housing crisis in NYC. The court’s decision that 435 Central Park West is subject to rent stabilization is a tremendous victory for our clients and all New Yorkers. This win reflects the perseverance of our clients who did not give up, and it is a reminder to all tenants of how important organizing and collective action is. The Legal Aid Society is here to enforce tenants rights and support tenants in their fight against gentrification and displacement,” said Jason Wu, Staff Attorney at the Harlem Community Law Office with The Legal Aid Society.

“Finally, after years of night sweats and waking up at the middle of the night not knowing how long I will be able to continue paying such a high rent. This illegal rent hike put my family and neighbors through so much unnecessary distress. And as 36 year resident, I come to find out how the landlord has been overcharging seniors and long term tenants like me for decades, illegally. I am beyond grateful the court found our building is subject to rent stabilization, and I’m forever thankful of our attorneys, Jason Wu of The Legal Aid Society and Stuart Cobert. They finally put an end to the landlord’s abusive tactics and take advantage of low income and senior citizen tenants. My neighbors, my friends, my family and I will finally no longer have to sleep in fear of becoming homeless. This great burden has been uplifted by the Court’s decision,” said Tenant Maria A. Cruz.

“For years, our landlord was illegally increasing the rent for me and my neighbors and after so much time, you begin to lose hope of ever finding a solution. I have been living with the constant fear that I would one day, unfairly, lose my home and that fear had me paralyzed in so many ways. The court's decision validates what the tenants have been fighting for for so long and restores my faith in honest and honorable people doing what is right. I am beyond relieved and happy knowing that I now have the security of a home and to me, that's everything,” said Tenant Hiram Chapman.

“Without Legal Aid the tenants of 435 Central Park West would never have scored this victory. This victory for us, is a model victory for all New York tenants facing skyrocketing rent charges from landlords who willfully misinterpret and obfuscate the law,” said Tenant Joy Harris.

“The year 2000 brought some devastating news to the tenants at 435 CPW. HUD and the landlord had entered into a Use Agreement that raised annual rents by 7-1/2 percent annually. As a senior citizen, living on my limited income, the rent would soon be unaffordable for me. Fear of losing our homes drove us to seek some help among legal authorities. Everyone we asked responded negatively. Our opponent was too powerful. Finally, in the spring of 2016, we found Legal Aid, whose attorneys gave us hope. It was only after their joining our fight against the abuses we had endured that our future looked brighter. Legal Aid was victorious in our case, and now I no longer fear losing the home I have lived in for the past 40 years. Legal Aid through their vigilance and belief in our cause made that possible. I will be 90 years old soon and this victory is the best birthday present I ever had,” said Tenant Bjorg L. Jeanpierre.

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