By Claudia Irizarry Aponte
May 17, 2019
The New York City Housing Authority is shifting eviction hearings from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn — but tenants and attorneys say there’s been little notice of the change.
Beginning June 24, the authority’s Office of Impartial Hearings will operate in Brooklyn at 787 Atlantic Avenue, near the Barclays Center, handling cases of tenants facing eviction for late rent payments or problematic conduct. The ailing agency is leaving its longtime offices at 250 Broadway to save money.
The new office will be closer to home for some of NYCHA’s more than 400,000 residents and a further trek for others — approaching two hours away for some Bronx and Staten Island tenants. If a tenant who has received a notice to appear for a hearing misses a hearing date without a valid excuse, they are typically held in default, making eviction imminent.
What’s more, say tenants and attorneys who work with those at risk of ejection from NYCHA, the authority so far hasn’t informed most residents that the office everyone knows as the place to plead their case is relocating.
“There’s not signage posting on 250 Broadway that they’re moving,” said Lucy Newman of The Legal Aid Society.
Many in the Bronx were surprised to learn the hearing rooms, along with NYCHA staff who negotiate settlements with tenants, would be shifted to Brooklyn.
“I had no idea. I had no clue,” said retiree Gwen Evans at the Fort Independence Houses in Kingsbridge — an hour and 15 minutes away from NYCHA’s new Brooklyn outpost by subway. “They call you to remind you of repairs, they call you to rate the repair, but they don’t call to say they’re not gonna be there no more.”
“No, I hadn’t heard that,” said Joyce Charlee Lee, who has lived in the Marble Hill Houses since 1989. “But I’m going to a tenant meeting tonight. Maybe they’ll say it then.”
Marble Hill Houses tenant Joyce Charlee Lee. Marble Hill Houses tenant Joyce Charlee Lee. Photo: Claudia Irizarry Aponte/THE CITY NYCHA hearing officers conduct 100 to 120 housing litigation sessions daily, four days a week, according to the authority.
NYCHA has not indicated whether it will be lenient on tenants who miss or are late for a hearing over confusion about the new location.
“We remain steadfastly committed to making sure our residents maintain access to the services and resources they rely on,” the agency said in a statement to THE CITY.
NYCHA decided to move out of 250 Broadway after its landlord proposed a $26 million-a-year rent increase. The agency dispersed desks to space it already rents in Long Island City and lower Manhattan as well as on Atlantic Avenue in Fort Greene. The Brooklyn office will also handle applications for housing vouchers.
The move, which began its first phase in 2017, will wrap in December.
Some residents said they appreciated the agency’s frugality.
“That money could change a whole lot of locks, windows, boilers,” said Nancy Ortiz, the tenant association president at Manhattan’s Vladeck Houses. “Then, it’s worth it.”