NYPD Lockout Orders Often Hurt Elderly, Disabled and Parents of Minor Children, Legal Aid and Legal Services Charge
MONDAY, MAY 02, 2016

The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC alerted the City a year ago that NYPD lockout orders intended to uproot illegal activity often wrongly affect people who are elderly, disabled or parents of minor children.

"We certainly wish that he (de Blasio) would not defer to the NYPD and not defer to the Law Department on issues where they clearly have no interest in changing the bad behavior that they've show so far," Judith Goldiner , Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit, told the Daily News.




EXCLUSIVE: Officials aware of problems with NYPD lockout orders before kicking wrong family out of home in nuisance abatement case
BY Sarah Ryley
New York Daily News
May 2, 2016

City lawyers were aware of issues with an NYPD tactic that boots people from their homes without giving them a chance to appear in court months before signing off on a case that left an innocent family homeless for four days, the Daily News has learned.

The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC flagged the dubious provision, part of nuisance abatement actions intended to uproot illegal activity by targeting the location it stems from, in a letter to the city Law Department dated April 2, 2015.

Lawyers for the two non-profits wrote that people are often wrongly affected by the closing orders, specifically the “elderly, disabled, or parents of minor children” living in the apartment, not the offending tenant.

NYPD'S BILL BRATTON DEFENDS NUISANCE ABATEMENT AMID NEWS EXPOSÉ

They also noted that nuisance cases are frequently filed many months after the last alleged offense, and after the NYCHA has already initiated, and in some cases resolved, administrative proceedings against the tenants over the same allegations.

Zachary Carter, the city’s top lawyer, responded in a letter dated June 19, 2015, assuring the groups that police are careful not to kick out innocent tenants. He also said cops would make an effort to obtain from NYCHA a list of eviction cases to avoid duplicating efforts.

Ten days later, the Law Department signed off on a case involving an apartment in the Queensbridge Houses.

Police claim in court filings that the apartment was being used to sell crack, based on undercover operations and arrests in January and February of 2015.

If the NYPD had checked with NYCHA, they would have known the problem tenants moved out April 24, 2015.

The NYPD didn’t get around to filing the case until December. Despite the evidence being 10 months old at this point, Judge Orin Kitzes still signed off on a closing order.

It was around this time an officer started coming around asking about the old tenants, a neighbor, who requested anonymity, told The News.

“He came back like three times,” the neighbor recounted. “What I told them was, ‘It’s new people living there.’”

The neighbor said the cop “acted like he didn't believe me, like I was trying to cover up for the people living there.”

The police taped the nuisance abatement papers to the apartment door on Dec. 11, 2015, while no one was home, court filings say.

Austria Bueno, a 32-year-old housekeeper who had moved in a few months earlier, came home to find she was locked out. Bueno, her husband and two children, were forced to sleep in a hotel room and on a relative’s floor for four nights until they could explain their situation to a judge.

The NYPD declined to comment on the neighbor’s claim.

The NYPD frequently served closing orders on businesses and homes only to find their targets had moved, two attorneys who have worked in the NYPD’s Civil Enforcement Unit have told The News . Yet the attorneys said they continued to do nothing to check if their targets were still at the places they were seeking to close.

A News/ ProPublica analysis of 1,162 cases against both businesses and residences filed over an 18-month period, starting in 2013, supports the attorneys’ claims, finding many had been withdrawn because cops found the offending tenants were already gone after serving the closing orders.

The analysis found judges approved the closing orders more than 70% of the time, even though they were sought, on average, nearly six months after the last alleged offense. (Judge Kitzes signed them in 235 out of the 236 cases that came before him.)

The analysis also found more than half of the people who were banned from homes or gave up their leases to settle these cases were not convicted of a crime in the underlying police investigation.

In response to widespread outrage over the News/ProPublica findings, first made public in February, Mayor Bill de Blasio tasked the Law Department and the NYPD with reviewing its nuisance cases to determine if there needs to be any changes to procedures.

The Law Department, which declined to comment on the Bueno case, has said they are working on new procedures to ensure closing orders are only sought in exigent circumstances, and that no innocent family members are locked out of their homes.

"Even as we use the nuisance abatement law as an important tool in making neighborhoods safer, we take seriously the concerns that have been raised and will continually review our processes to make sure that residents and owners of small businesses are treated fairly," a Law Department spokesman told The News on Saturday.

A spokeswoman for de Blasio said Friday that the mayor “will follow the recommendations of the Law Department.” He will not be seeking an independent review.

But some critics say an independent review is necessary.

"We certainly wish that he (de Blasio) would not defer to the NYPD and not defer to the Law Department on issues where they clearly have no interest in changing the bad behavior that they've show so far," Judith Goldiner if the Legal Aid Society said.

"I think that having the Inspector General's Office look at this, and or the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board), is appropriate and necessary if the public is going to have faith in what comes out," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.

Bueno, meanwhile, is now suing the city in Brooklyn Federal Court , seeking to have the nuisance abatement law declared unconstitutional.

When Bueno learned the officer was told he had the wrong family, said she was shocked. “That means they don’t care about my family at all,” she told The News.