People line up in the cold outside housing court
It was 10 am Tuesday, and the bitter cold on the first official business day of the new year didn’t diminish the long line standing outside the housing court building at 141 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn.
“They want their rent money, but they don’t want to fix or repair anything,” said Shakia Sease, a single mother of four children ages 17, 14, 12 and 9 who lives in Canarsie’s Breukelen Houses, which is a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) development.
Sease said she has put work orders into management of the Breukelen Houses to get her apartment fixed and repair people say they came and the work is done, but they never showed up to do the work.
Among this work that still needs to be done includes radiator maintenance, a hole in the ceiling above the shower pipe and the need for a new front door, she said.
“I’m not behind on my rent and I brought documentation to prove it but they (NYCHA) say I am behind so they’re taking me to court.”
Once in the building, the housing court is in Room 202, it is packed with people. This includes young children – some of whom are sleeping on the hard, wooden benches – and others who are standing as all the seats are taken. Meanwhile, the line to the information counter is snaked around the wall outside the room leading to the elevators.
“If you have an emergency you can ask for representation and the landlord almost always has an attorney on their behalf and they’re (landlords) not usually here. So you just deal with their attorney,” said Julio Pacheco, who lives near Brooklyn College and is currently three months behind in his $1,000 per month one-bedroom apartment.
“I had a situation where I owed money for school loans and I got backed up after the state threatened to garnish my wages,” said Pacheco, who is a maintenance worker for Columbia University.
Pacheco said his landlord filed to evict him and he was in housing court to get an extension to pay his back rent.
One woman with three young children who gave her name only as Nicole, was facing eviction from her one-bedroom apartment at NYCHA’s Boulevard Houses in East New York.
“I’ve seen four people from my building here today and we all got served with eviction notices on New Year’s Eve,” she said.
Nicole said her apartment was also in disrepair and has never been fixed.
“I’ve been looking for another apartment and applied for Section 8 (a federal housing subsidy) but I got frozen out after the city ran out of vouchers,” Nicole said.
Nicole said she attends school and works full-time at a hospital on the night shift, but between rent and medical bills she is having trouble keeping a roof over her and her children’s heads.
“They cut me off of Medicaid because they look at your gross and not your net. But a lot of the money I make pays for babysitters while I’m working or going to school,” she said.
According to the supervising court interrupter, who has been in his position for the past 12 years, housing court cases have doubled or tripled in volume over the past year. At the same time, the state has ordered cutbacks in his department, forcing him to lay off one worker.
The supervisor said workers in his department interpret for both landlords and tenants if need be.
Many knew immigrants buy a three- or four-family house and then they get into problems with tenants that are unable to pay the rent.
“About 10 percent of all the eviction cases end up with people being thrown out on the street,” said the supervisor. “They say the economy is getting better, but not here.”