Daily News: Tenants without cooking gas for more than a year seek to boot landlord

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Nearly two dozen Bronx tenants who haven’t been able to use their stoves to cook for more than a year want their landlord booted.

The 21 tenants want an independent administrator to take over the building at 1210 Stratford Ave. in Soundview.

And on Wednesday, they filed a so-called 7A proceeding in Bronx Housing Court against landlords Sam David and Lazer Kviat.

“I feel depressed in this holiday season without gas in my apartment,” said tenant Maritza Perez. “My ceiling is horrible and has a serious leak from the roof and I am worried about mold.”

Perez said the building’s super told her there’s no plan to make roof repairs until the weather warms up.

The 53-unit building has 181 open housing violations with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, records show. The violations include leaks, mold, and vermin infestations.

The tenants, who are represented by the Legal Aid Society, say they’ve been without cooking gas since November 2017.

In August, the landlords agreed to restore the gas by Oct. 8 and to make a series of other repairs.

That never happened.

“No work has been done at the building,” the court filing says.

The tenants want “a court appointing an administrator who would use their rent money to properly manage the building, and who would be empowered to take out necessary loans to complete the repairs necessary to make the building and their individual apartments habitable.”

David didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Kviat wasn’t immediately available for a response.

NY1 Noticias: Inquilinos del Bronx se unen para demandar al dueño del edificio

La organización Legal Aid Society y líderes electos se unieron para respaldar una demanda contra los propietarios del edificio ubicado en el 12-10 de la avenida Stratford, por negarse a atender las necesidades del edificio.

Esto se produce un día antes de una audiencia en el juzgado en la que se podría asignar a un administrador para que administre el edificio y las reparaciones.

Este es el segundo edificio en El Bronx, controlado por los propietarios Sam David y Lazer Kviat, donde los inquilinos han demandado por no tener servicios esenciales.

"Nosotrosa le hemos dado complaints muchas veces y él no se ocupa. Ahora mismo hace un año nos tiene sin gas. Y hay algunas reparaciones que pedí que se hicieran por medio de la corte y no la han arreglado. El landlord no quiere arreglar, pide dinero y el no arregla", explicaron sus inquilinos.

El edificio está ubicado en el sector de Soundview, en El Bronx y actualmente tiene registradas 204 infracciones al codigo de vivienda.

New York Groups & Assemblymember Mosley Introduce Nation's Most Progressive Legislation to Reform New York's Antiquated Parole System

  • Comprehensive Legislation Will Overhaul New York’s Parole System to Address Current Bias – Reducing Recidivism by Incentivizing Good Behavior and Early Release, Mandating Fair Hearings, Capping Violation Terms and Saving Taxpayer Dollars

  • New “Less is More” Campaign Will Rally Support for Passage of Sweeping Legislation in Albany

A coalition of New York groups and Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) today announced new legislation – the most progressive in the nation – to reform the state’s antiquated parole system and improve reintegration of formerly incarcerated New Yorkers to society. The Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act is comprehensive new legislation that addresses the current problems of how technical violations in the parole system lead to reincarceration. The reforms in the bill include: incentivizing good behavior and allowing New Yorkers to earn accelerated release from parole; requiring fair hearings; creating maximum terms of reincarceration for violations and eliminating incarceration as a sanction for certain technical violations; and saving taxpayer dollars by reducing the number of incarcerated New Yorkers, and reinvesting those funds back into the community.

New York Assemblyman Walter Mosley said: "Research from Columbia University shows us without a doubt that parole reform is not only possible, it's the smart move to make. Our state currently has one of the highest rates of parole failure, but there are ways for our parole system to become more effective while making life easier for people on parole. By incentivizing good behavior, preventing re-incarceration for technical violations, and creating a higher threshold for less serious offenses, our state can save money and reform our criminal justice system. My bill draws on this research and will serve to make our communities safer. We look forward to advancing and passing this legislation in the 2019 session.”

The bill introduction also marks the launch of the Less is More NY Campaign - a statewide effort to address the problems of mass supervision in New York and pass this new legislation.

Donna Hylton, Director of the Women and Girls Project at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, who was formerly incarcerated for 27 years, said: "New York State is known to be a progressive leader in criminal justice reform, a leading voice in the fight for basic human dignity, and a strong supporter of ‘second chances.’ Yet our parole system is sending so many people back to jail and prison for simple technical violations. It now has the terrible distinction of being a national leader in reincarcerating people who are on parole. Sending people back to jail and prison for simple technical parole violations is deeply flawed and undermines the reentry process. Unfortunately, Black and Brown people are more likely to be reincarcerated for a technical violation than are white people, and we all know that's not right. As a formerly incarcerated person who spent 5 years under parole supervision, I know what it's like to be afraid that after years of being incarcerated, I could be doing everything right, but a basic misstep like being late to a meeting might send me back to prison. Thankfully, we can fix this. The Less is More Act represents a great start for New York to be the beacon of progressive reform and ‘second chances’ it purports to be. We are proud to stand with Assemblyman Mosley in support of this bill, and invite others to join us in the Less is More campaign to win real reform and strengthen our communities."

The new legislation follows the recommendations of the “Less is More in New York” report released earlier this year by the Justice Lab at Columbia University. While New York City jail populations have dipped below 9,000 for the first time in 35 years, New Yorkers in city jails for state parole violations have increased by 15 percent. New York reincarcerates more people on parole for technical violations – a missed appointment, broken curfew, or positive test for alcohol – than any state in the country except Illinois. Of people on parole whom New York sent back to prison in 2016, over 65 percent were reincarcerated for technical parole violations. According to a report by the Columbia University Justice Lab, for every 10 people who successfully complete parole in New York, nine fail.

Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Director of the Columbia University Justice Lab, Author of the Less Is More report, and former New York City Probation Commissioner, said: "New York is ironically both a leader in safely reducing its prison population and in revoking parole for non-criminal technical violations like missing appointments or possessing drugs. We have the second highest number of technical violations in the country, almost a third of people entering our prisons are entering for technicals rather than new crimes, and people incarcerated for technicals are the only growing population on Rikers Island. The Less is More Act will put New York back in the lead in this area, reducing technicals while providing resources for people to thrive when they’re released from prison.”

The new legislation adopts the following recommendations to address these disparities and reform New York’s antiquated parole system:

  • Shorten parole terms and incentivize good behavior by allowing people to earn accelerated discharge
  • Require a hearing before a judicial officer before jailing someone accused of a technical violation
  • Create a high legal threshold for jailing people on parole for less serious offenses and expedite their hearings
  • Cap the amount of time people can serve in jail for violations and eliminate incarceration as a sanction for certain technical violations
  • Require the use of graduated sanctions and rewards prior to revoking people under supervision to incarceration
  • Reallocate savings to community programs

Schyla Silburn, Katal member in Albany, New York, said: “This system is taking our men and women from our homes. After serving ten years in prison, my fiancé came home in September and was trying to find employment and get his life on track. In October, he had a curfew violation and found himself back in the county jail and now back in prison – all for a curfew violation! Before I read this legislation, I was almost willing to take an ankle bracelet despite the fact that this is another form of incarceration! He's not home to provide for his family, which is very stressful to the household and now has become another bill adding onto the bills left behind due to his departure. The rent, the children's needs, having to put money on the phone, visits – which has tremendous travel costs, motel fees because he's so far away, and packages. It's tiring and very stressful! He's already been out of our lives, in terms of not being home, for ten years. Ten years of me taking care of all of the things that hold us together as a family. When these men and women are reincarcerated, it leaves their families to take on the burden of caring for them, adding to the fact that we are struggling with balancing work and the children's needs. I had to take a second job just to make sure that he's okay. These kids are sad and missing their father. The injustice is just not fair and we need reform now. That’s why I support this legislation, and the Governor and all the lawmakers in Albany should support it as well."

Derek Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained, who has previously been on parole, said: "This bill will not only overhaul the system of community supervision and revocations, but also has the potential to transform the mentality of individuals on parole. When the threshold for returning to jail is so low because parole reincarcerates people for minor technical violations, hopelessness can set in. The Less is More bill will ensure the physical freedom of thousands of people by not sending them to jail for things that are not crimes, and will also give them the mental freedom to live their lives without the threat of a violation constantly hanging over their heads. The incentive to be discharged from supervision early is a much more positive and effective approach to supporting individuals in reintegrating into communities successfully."

Lorraine McEvilley, Director of the Parole Revocation Defense Unit of the Legal Aid Society, said: “The Parole Revocation Defense Unit wholeheartedly supports the Less is More bill. Far too often, parole violators are sent back to prison not because their violations of conditions represent a threat to the community, but as a punishment for punishment’s sake. By rewarding those on supervision to earn time off their sentence by abiding by conditions of parole, the bill creates rational incentives for those on parole to follow their supervision requirements. We applaud these New York groups and Assemblyman Mosley for introducing this measure and urging Albany to enact it immediately.”

States including: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah have successfully implemented reforms similar to those proposed in the Less is More Act to reduce disparities and overhaul state-level parole systems. These reforms have worked: after South Carolina adopted graduated sanctions, compliance revocations decreased 46 percent, and recidivism rates for people under supervision dropped by a third. Meanwhile, crime rates dropped by over 20 percent. Similarly, after Louisiana implemented caps on jail or prison terms for first-time technical violations, the length of incarceration declined by 281 days and 22 percent fewer people under community supervision were sent back to prison for new crimes. After Missouri adopted earned time credits for people on probation and parole, supervision terms dropped by 14 months, the supervised population fell 18 percent, and average caseloads decreased 16 percent.

Permitting New Yorkers to earn accelerated discharge of community supervision will responsibly shrink the number of formerly incarcerated individuals subject to supervision and allow the state to concentrate its finite resources on where they're needed most. By passing these sweeping reforms, New York has the opportunity to reduce jail and prison populations, support people in the reentry process, and promote safety and justice for all the state’s families and communities.

The Less is More NY Campaign is organizing across the state to pass this legislation and create a safer, fairer, more equitable New York. #LessIsMoreNY

AP: New York lawmaker pushes parole system overhaul

By David Klepper
December 18, 2018

A proposal in the New York Legislature would overhaul the state’s parole system to shift its emphasis on technical violations such as missing curfew to a series of incentives that reward good behavior.

The bill announced Tuesday is sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Walter Mosley, of Brooklyn, and is based on research from Columbia University; the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice; and other advocates for criminal justice reform.

Current rules send too many former inmates back to prison for technical violations, undermining their attempts to rejoin the community, breaking up families and adding to the state’s correctional costs, Mosley said.

“It’s the smart move to make,” Mosley said. “There are ways for our parole system to become more effective while making life easier for people on parole.”

His bill would prohibit certain minor parole violations from being used to send people back to prison, and instead create a series of incentives that would shorten parole if a parolee makes progress in reintegrating into society.

Earlier this year, researchers at Columbia examined parole rules in New York and other states and found that often, minor infractions such as showing up late to a meeting with a parole officer can lead to serious consequences, and even reimprisonment. The reports recommended shifting the focus of parole from punishment to incentives as a way to reduce recidivism and help former inmates rebuild their lives once they released.

By reducing the number of people sent back to prison, the authors wrote, the state could refocus staff and correctional resources to work with prisoners most likely to reoffend.

While officials like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo work to reduce the prison population, supporters of Mosley’s bill say parole is an issue that demands more attention.

“We have the second highest number of technical violations in the country,” said Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of Columbia’s Justice Lab and a former New York City probation commissioner who worked on the research. “Almost a third of people entering our prisons are entering for technicals rather than new crimes.”

ABA JOURNAL: Public interest attorney takes cue from Man of Steel, aspires to be super-lawyer

By Sateesh Nori
Posted December 18, 2018

“Man is a rope, stretched between the beast and the Superman, a rope over an abyss.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra

As a public interest lawyer, I feel this tension every day. From the stoic sense of focusing on what is possible to the idealistic urge to remake the system, sometimes I feel paralyzed between what I can do for my clients and what I should do for them. I refocus my energy by reminding myself that I am an attorney, not a social worker, policymaker or judge. But the act of reframing my role sometimes leaves me frustrated and exhausted.

I work primarily on behalf of low-income tenants in New York City who are facing eviction. My clients are poor, often immigrants, and almost always facing a more powerful landlord in a city where powerful landlords often make many of the rules. Sometimes I can wield the law as a weapon to preserve the tenuous hold that my clients have on their homes. In many other cases, I am using the law to merely delay the inevitable eviction while holding on to the value of “due process”—which has no practical meaning for a family when a city marshal is at their door to evict. At the end of a long day or a long week, I’m often sitting alone with the question: Is this the way it has to be?

In The Clinic Effect, recent MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” awardee Rebecca Sandefur, who has dedicated her career to understanding the role of lawyers and the limitations of the structures of public interest law, wrote with Jeffrey Selbin, “During law school, students’ commitment to work for the public good is either crushed, or its meaning is changed to encompass more mainstream aspirations.” Law schools focus on fundamental skills through the case method but fail to teach law students about their civic duties and social responsibilities.

Why is the desire of many law students to work for the public interest crushed? Why don’t lawyers have a better understanding of their civic duties and social responsibilities? Obviously, law school debt and other financial burdens make pursuing a public interest career a great sacrifice. But are there other factors?

I think being a public interest lawyer brings with it an internal conflict between feeling powerless to make change and feeling the great responsibility for the outcomes of our cases. This is the central conflict of the comic book hero Superman: the split between Clark Kent and the man in the red cape.

In Action Comics No. 8 (January 1939), Superman takes on the issue of housing for the poor. He confronts a gang of youths in a slum and says: “It’s not entirely your fault that you’re delinquent; it’s these slums—your poor living conditions—if there was only some way to remedy it.”

Superman’s hope is that destroying the slums will force the government to build decent and affordable public housing. “When I finish, this town will be rid of filthy, crime-festering slums!”

It seems incredible that even Superman once tackled social justice issues. Also interesting is that his perceived solution to the issue of providing safe and decent housing for the poor was to completely and literally destroy the existing structures. In this tale, Superman is an outlaw, a vigilante. There is no Clark Kent to equivocate to find sensible solutions.

Many of us chose the law as a career to be someone else. Some may see law school as self-improvement through academic study: a path to a more confident, outspoken person. We chose public interest law to feel like outlaws: to question the fundamental sources of inequality and injustice. We toil as cogs in legal machines but also desire to dismantle them. We uphold the rule of law while questioning its foundations. We work within systems such as courts, corporations and governments while developing a deep knowledge of the flaws, cracks and hypocrisy within them.

Ultimately, there can be no skill or superpower under the law. There is no solution in a whirlwind of power and force. We must seek incremental change, one case at a time. And we must look beyond our limited and ill-defined roles as lawyers to seek solutions.

We are all honorable, bumbling, well-meaning (if not also socially awkward) Clark Kents. But we can and should dream of being super.

WNYC: A Federal Takeover of NYCHA?

Judith Goldiner

Judith Goldiner

HUD secretary Ben Carson is threatening to put NYCHA in "substantial default" if the housing agency does not come up with a satisfactory plan by January 31 to repair the housing stock. Courtney Gross, political reporter at NY1 News, and Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society, discuss what’s at stake. They are joined by David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS).

Electronic signatures: Boon to domestic violence cases, says D.A.; bad practice, lawyers counter

District Attorney Michael E. McMahon, seen in this 2018 photo, supports the use of electronic signatures in domestic violence cases. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)

SI LIVE: Electronic signatures: Boon to domestic violence cases, says D.A.; bad practice, lawyers counter

December 17, 2018

By Frank Donnelly

Domestic violence cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute.

Alleged victims often have a change of heart for variety of personal reasons. Some fear retribution if they pursue the case.

On Staten Island, nearly two-thirds of such cases were dismissed earlier this year.

And the numbers were even higher in other boroughs.

In a bid to stem the tide, District Attorney Michael E. McMahon turned to his colleagues in Queens whose dismissal rates in domestic violence cases were by far the lowest in the city.

For several years, Queens prosecutors have used simple e-mail correspondence to obtain victims' signatures on supporting depositions at the outset of the case to move it forward.

Previously, complainants had only signed those documents in person.

But in many instances, face-to-face meetings were difficult to coordinate. Accusers were hard to reach or had changed their minds by the time prosecutors located them, effectively scuttling the case.

McMahon said the results speak for themselves.

In April, 63 percent of domestic-violence cases on Staten Island were dismissed, he said.

In June, after implementing the new electronic-signing policy, that number dropped to 40 percent. In September, it was down to 35 percent.

As of Dec. 6, electronic signings had been used in 99 misdemeanor cases, said Tuesday Muller-Mondi, chief of the D.A.'s Domestic Violence Bureau.

"Improving the way domestic violence cases are handled on Staten Island is one of our key initiatives," McMahon said during a recent interview at his St. George offices.

"We're very pleased that the success we hope for, we are realizing. It's still way too high, but we're getting there," McMahon said, referring to the dismissal rate. "We're always trying to do things better and make the application of justice fairer on Staten Island."

But defense lawyers argue the process short-circuits justice instead of ensuring it.

For the sake of convenience, prosecutors are rushing to push cases through the system instead of carefully evaluating complainants' credibility in a face-to-face meeting, they contend.

"It's not best practices. I'd want to see the witness in front of me and I'd want to assess the witness in front of me," said Christopher Pisciotta, senior attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society on Staten Island. "The whole process has been truncated to a voiceless, faceless e-mail exchange."

"I think what's happening is they're trying to put undue pressure on the accused by keeping them in jail," Pisciotta said. "I think this is a simpler, faster way to make that happen."

Mark J. Fonte, a St. George-based criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, agrees.

"The prosecutor is more concerned with inconveniencing alleged victims because a lot of these cases are questionable," said Fonte. "A prosecutor should sit down with the victim and gauge whether that victim has credibility or not. The defendant has a Constitutional right to have that occur. ... This method shortcuts those protections."

Louis Gelormino, another criminal defense lawyer was even more blunt.

"Any case where the district attorney does not get an in-person signature on a deposition of an alleged victim should immediately be dismissed," said Gelormino. "For the district attorney to make an assessment of someone's credibility without meeting them is just absurd. "

There's another issue: Defense lawyers question the reliability of electronic signatures.

Complainants are instructed to reply, "I agree" and type their name to a supporting deposition to signify the information contained in a criminal complaint which prosecutors also e-mail them is accurate.

Prosecutors follow-up with a phone call to confirm the complainant read and understood the deposition and that they are the person who signed it.

False statements are subject to perjury charges.

"We're finding a lot of witnesses are saying, 'I didn't get that call' and some are saying they didn't get an e-mail in the first place," said Pisciotta. "All of these things happen because you don't have a live person in front of you signing a document."

McMahon said he knows of no instances in which the affidavit was signed by a person other than to whom it was e-mailed.

Muller-Mondi said Queens began using electronic signing in 2015 for all misdemeanor domestic-violence cases. Prosecutors in Brooklyn and Manhattan have also used it in some cases, she said.

Electronic signing can't be used in felony cases because complainants and witnesses can be subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

The process used to work this way:

Police would interview an alleged domestic-violence victim at the scene and compile a report.

Afterward, prosecutors interviewed the officer and drafted a criminal complaint based on their conversation and the cop's report.

The defendant would then be arraigned in Criminal Court.

Following, prosecutors had five days on misdemeanor domestic violence cases to obtain a signed affidavit from the accuser corroborating the criminal complaint.

Otherwise bail, if set, would be reduced to zero dollars, and the defendant would be released if he wasn't also being held on another case.

Depending on the class of misdemeanor, prosecutors had 60 or 90 days to secure the signed deposition to prevent the case from being statutorily dismissed.

In the current system, prosecutors telephone the complainant and discuss the case with them after interviewing the police officer.

Prosecutors inform the alleged victim they are going to e-mail them the complaint and supporting deposition. They are asked to read those documents.

If complainants agree with the information, they reply "I agree" in the email and return it.

After receiving the return e-mail, the assistant district attorney handling the case makes the confirmatory phone call.

The prosecutor also signs an affidavit verifying the information on the complaint and affirming it was explained to the alleged victim.

Afterward, complainants are invited to the D.A.'s office to discuss the case further.

Muller-Mondi said the new method allows prosecutors to communicate more quickly with complainants and helps victims "get earlier into the buy-in."

Now, by the time of the defendant's arraignment, prosecutors have contacted the alleged victim, which hadn't always been the case before.

"This is something that troubled me from the get-go – that we needed to have earlier communication and interaction with the victim," said McMahon.

Swiftly establishing the facts and circumstances surrounding a domestic-violence incident helps both prosecutors and the defense assess and dispose of the case, Muller-Mondi said.

"We get many more pleas than we did otherwise," said Muller-Mondi.

But, she added, "We're not looking at convictions as much as addressing the family's needs. The goal is for the defendant to be held accountable and for the victim to be safe."

Accountability could entail jail time, probation, or entry into a program such as for substance abuse or anger management, she said.

Victim advocates at the D.A.'s office work with victims to secure any social services they might need, said Muller-Mondi.

Defense lawyers aren't sold.

At its core, they question the legality of the electronic signings.

"What we have is the district attorney's office creating their own law," said Pisciotta, the Legal Aid chief. "This isn't authorized by law. What you have happening is different district attorney's offices doing it differently. ... I think it's wrong."

In response, McMahon points to several decisions in which judges, mainly in Queens, have upheld the electronic signatures.

"It is legal and appropriate and Constitutional to do it this way," said McMahon.

Criminal defense attorney Manuel Ortega said he's not aware of any law that specifically allows or prevents the electronic signings.

"It will ultimately come down to the courts," said Ortega. "Ultimately, it will have to go to the Appellate Division or Court of Appeals."

In such a scenario, a convicted defendant would appeal the validity of the e-mail process, he said.

Pisciotta said state lawmakers must step in.

The Legislature needs to "establish protocol to apply uniformly across all counties" for electronic signings to be deemed an acceptable practice, he said.

Legal Aid Files Lawsuit for Court-Appointed Administrator in 53 Unit Building With 204 HPD Violations

Landlords Have Denied Tenants Working Cooking Gas and Other Essentials for More Than One Year

Tenants at 1210 Stratford Ave. in the Bronx are asking the court to appoint an administrator to oversee and repair the building. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The Legal Aid Society filed a 7A proceeding in Bronx Housing Court against landlords Sam David and Lazer Kviat for refusing to address dilapidated building conditions including elevator service outages and a leaky roof, and denying tenants working cooking gas for more than a year. The building is located at 1210 Stratford Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx and currently has 204 open housing violations with the City. This is the second building in the Bronx controlled by landlords Sam David and Lazer Kviat where tenants have petitioned for a 7A Administrator due to David and Kviat’s failure to ensure tenants the basic services to which they are entitled under law.

“Sam David and Lazer Kviat have demonstrated once again that they do not take seriously their obligations to abide by court orders or provide basic services to their rent-paying tenants,” said Benjamin Seibel, Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society.

“Landlords Sam David and Lazer Kviat’s record of persistently failing to ensure that tenants receive basic services shows that tenants need the Court to take the drastic, but warranted, measure of appointing a responsible administrator for their building,” said Russell Crane, Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “No family should have to suffer these living conditions, especially with cold weather and around the holidays.

“I have lived in this building 36 years and it is now in the worst shape it has been. This landlord doesn’t show any respect or consideration for the tenants here. Just recently because the front door was broken, there were people sleeping in the halls of the building. Any time we ask for repairs the landlord’s employee says he is too busy working on other apartments that the landlord is trying to rent to new tenants,” said Elbyn Salazar, a tenant of the building.

“I feel depressed in this holiday season without gas in my apartment. My ceiling is horrible and has a serious leak from the roof and I am worried about mold. The Superintendent told me that the landlord had no plans to fix the roof until the warmer weather and we are just at the start of the winter,” said Maritza Perez, a tenant of the building.

“The conditions at 1210 Stratford Avenue are both deplorable and unacceptable. Over a year without gas, no repairs, extensive apartment damages; ongoing massive leaks, elevators not running for extended periods of time despite seniors living in higher floors, is simply inexcusable. For months, my office and my colleagues in Government have worked to bring improvements, and while gains were made, families deserve much more. I’m grateful to Legal Aid for bringing this action and ensuring that every fix is made, while holding the owners accountable and holding back the only thing they seem to care about, their money.” said Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo.

Legal Aid represents 21 tenants in this litigation and will appear before a judge on December 20, 2018 to seek a court-appointed administrator to take over the building.

Cooking gas has been disconnected for the tenants since November 2017. HPD’s Litigation Department sued the landlord in Housing Court in April 2018 due to the landlords’ failure to make repairs. In that case, landlords Sam David and Lazer Kviat agreed on August 9, 2018 to restore cooking gas service by October 8, 2018 and to correct outstanding violations. HPD is now seeking to hold the landlord in contempt for failing to comply with the August 9th settlement.

In court papers, HPD states that it sent an inspector to the premises who noted that “no work was being done at the building” and that the Landlord did not even file for a proper permit for the construction needed to restore the gas service until October 8, 2018.

Meanwhile, HPD records show that there are currently 204 open violations of record in the building, including 37 “C” violations, 134 “B” violations and 33 “A” violations. These violations include leaks, mold, and vermin infestations. In addition, there are currently 12 open violations issued by the Department of Buildings and 25 open Environmental Control Board violations.

Tenants at the building are seeking a court order appointing an administrator who would use their rent money to properly manage the building, and who would be empowered to take out necessary loans to complete the repairs necessary to make the building and their individual apartments habitable.

The Respondents in the case are the owner Marquis Realty LLC, the head officer of that corporation, Lazer Kviat A/K/A/ Abraham Lazer Kviat, the managing agent Sam David, the mortgage holder New York Community Bank, and, pursuant to statutory requirements, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The Department of Buildings has also been named as a party because of the periodic elevator outages over the past year.

The Legal Aid Society’s Tenant Rights Coalition is supported by the City’s Human Resource Administration (HRA).

Statement Responding to Governor Cuomo’s 2019 Legislative Priority Address

The Legal Aid Society issued the following statement responding to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s address on his 2019 legislative priorities:

“For New York to reach its progressive promise, criminal justice, housing, and immigration reform must be central to Albany’s 2019 legislative agenda. This must include an overhaul to bail, speedy trial, and discovery statutes; the passage of parole reform; the legalization of marijuana and the removal of prior marijuana convictions; and the repeal of laws that shield against police transparency and accountability. Equally important, lawmakers must finally repeal vacancy decontrol and the eviction-vacancy bonus, ensure that preferential rent lasts the duration of each tenancy, and close other loopholes that landlords exploit to the detriment of rent-stabilized tenants.

And on immigration, especially in the era of Trump, Albany must pass legislation that would reduce the maximum sentence on class A misdemeanor charges by one day, which would save many from ICE detention and deportation. Lawmakers must also pass the Protect Our Courts Act and the New York DREAM Act, and ensure that all state residents have access to a driver’s license.

Lastly, reform must also be a sweeping depart from a status quo that has fueled a disparate system and one that over-criminalizes communities of color. The Legal Aid Society looks forward to finally righting these long-standing injustices early next year.”