Legal Aid Society Files Injunction Demanding NYSUM Management Cease and Desist Tenant Intimidation Lawsuit Comes in Response to NYSUM Management Removing Furniture, Computers & Internet Access From Dormitory
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2017

The Legal Aid Society filed an injunction in Queens court today against the New York School of Urban Ministry (NYSUM) following a recent series of tenant harassment incidents at a residential building owned and operated by NYSUM. In an continued effort to make the building unlivable for tenants, NYSUM management recently removed furniture and computers from a shared living room, and disconnected the building’s WiFi internet. A dormitory resident also claims that she was physically assaulted by management at a recent tenant meeting.

In response, the Legal Aid Society filed an injunction in Queens Civil Court demanding that the Court prohibit NYSUM from removing any other furniture or other amenities from the dormitory.

Background

Last November, NYSUM, a Christian non-profit organization in Astoria, suddenly and without explanation delivered eviction notices informing all 39 tenants that they had to vacate the property by December 31, 2016. NYSUM has said that it cannot afford to maintain the dormitory and it will convert the property for a new owner, an undisclosed charitable organization.

The Tenant Rights Coalition of The Legal Aid Society's Queens Neighborhood Office, funded by the City’s Human Resources Administration and its Office for Civil Justice, filed a lawsuit in February alleging that these apartments are protected by the Rent Stabilization Law which allows each tenant the right to renewables leases. NYSUM may attempt to shield itself from this law as a charity but it does not meet any of the legal requirements for an exemption.

NYSUM tenants, through Legal Aid, have attempted to discuss settlement and resolution of the issues but NYSUM, through its attorneys, has not made any reasonable offers.

Instead, management has resorted to vicious tactics to bully NYSUM tenants into giving up their apartments.

“It’s unfortunate that management continues to bully and intimidate our clients to squeeze them out of their homes,” said Sateesh Nori, Attorney-In-Charge of the Queens Civil Office at The Legal Aid Society. “We expected NYSUM management to comport themselves in a passionate and empathetic manner – especially as employees of a Christian organization. Instead, management is operating not from the “good book” but from the book of dirty tricks.”

The tactics that the New York School of Urban Ministry has resorted to, after looking to unfairly evict its tenants, are indefensible and fit a troubling pattern of unscrupulous behavior,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “I stand firmly alongside the Legal Aid Society and our local elected officials in sending a message to its management that we won’t allow them to continue intimidating residents in a shameless effort to force these New Yorkers out of their homes.”

“After a year of battling harassment from management, NYSUM tenants continue to face threats to their homes from this irresponsible landlord. I am sickened by the utter disregard for the residents’ well-being and will continue to fight to preserve their rights. I hope these good people continue to stand their ground against the scare tactics facing them,” said New York State Senator Michael Gianaris.

"I commend the Legal Aid Society for ardently defending the rights of these low-income tenants to remain in their homes. The last thing our community and our city needs is more homeless people, yet that's a looming possibility if NYSUM keeps up its intimidation and harassment. It's absolutely baffling how an organization that professes a Christian duty to care about the poor can behave in this money-grubbing fashion,” said New York State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas.

“We are proud to stand with Legal Aid and the other legal service providers we partner with in seeking justice for tenants facing this unconscionable harassment,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “HRA’s Office of Civil Justice exists to ensure that low income New Yorkers have a voice in court, and cannot be threatened into relinquishing their rights.”

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