Daily News: Queens Mother, Disabled Daughter Not Evicted Over Landlord's 'Meritless' Lawsuit

The Daily News reports on a major tenant win for a family in Ridgewood, Queens thanks to the work of our local Housing Practice.

NY Daily News
Queens Mother, Disabled Daughter Not Evicted Over Landlord's 'Meritless' Lawsuit
By Andrew Keshner
August 15, 2017

A Queens landlord's quest to evict a cigarette-puffing single mom and her disabled daughter have gone up in smoke.

For three years, rent-controlled tenant Lynn Blue had a case hanging over her, alleging she was a nuisance who needed to leave the Ridgewood apartment where she grew up.

Blue not only smoked, but also had people constantly coming and going and left trash, according to the case filed by landlord Milena Jovic.

A Queens jury sided with Jovic in 2015 and Blue said the verdict put her on a verge of a breakdown. The trial judge threw out the verdict, and the landlord appealed.

But last week, three appellate judges ruled the trial judge was right to toss the jury decision.

It was "like a mountain was lifted off me," Blue, 49, told the Daily News on Friday. "It felt like validation, you know. Somebody heard me."

Jovic had accused Blue of smoking marijuana and cigarettes. Blue insisted she only used tobacco — never pot — and exhaled out the window with a fan blowing. She denied being a litterbug, and said the people coming in and out were caregivers and relatives there for her 17-year-old daughter Bianca.

Blue's lawyers say the fight was actually about finding an excuse to push out Blue and rake in more rent. Blue said she pays a little over $1,000 monthly.

Jovic and her lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Blue said her feud with her landlord goes back well before the smoking suit.

Blue said the issues started when her mom handed off the apartment to her at age 19.

An early accusation was subletting, when Blue said she was just letting a girlfriend stay who was going through a rough time.

On the same day Mayor de Blasio signed a legislation requiring lawyers for tenants facing eviction, Sateesh Nori, attorney in charge of Legal Aid's civil practice in Queens, said the case highlighted just how important it was for tenants to have lawyers.

"Our client and her disabled daughter anguished over the possibility of going homeless," he said. "The court made the right decision and saw this lawsuit for what it was: scant and meritless."

The Legal Aid Society has represented her for years.

Nori said Jovic's first nuisance case came in 2011. Blue was running the water too much, according to the dismissed case.

Then Blue and the city's Commission on Human Rights of the handicap-accessible bathtub. The tub still hasn't been put in, says Blue.

The current nuisance case came in 2014. Blue said she had to leave the room when she heard the news.

But Queens Civil Court Judge Sally Unger tossed the verdict.

The appellate judges in the Aug. 4 decision said there were no rules or lease provisions against smoking. And there was no evidence she smoked in common areas. People coming and going to care for Bianca "did not amount to a nuisance," the appeals court said.

This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News.