2017-10-25 / Front Page

Court Orders Temp ‘Hands-Off Tenants’ In NYSUM Eviction Bid

By Liz Goff
Tenants fighting to remain in a dormitory-style residence in Astoria won a temporary restraining order (TRS) on October 16th, that prohibits their landlord, the New York School of Urban Ministry (NYSUM,) from kicking them to the street or harassing them until the matter returns to the court on November 16.

The TRS is the most recent action sought by tenants at the building at 31-65 46th Street in Astoria, in their battle to halt their eviction.

Tenants allege that NYSUM has engaged in recent acts of harassment toward them, seemingly designed to make the building uninhabitable.  NYSUM workers were in and out of the building without notice in August and September, tenants said. NYSUM has removed furniture and computers from common areas of the building, discontinued trash pickups, housekeeping and janitorial services and threatened to remove a stove and refrigerator shared by the tenants. NYSUM has also discontinued WIFI and cable service at the building, according to several tenants. “They were here, in our faces trying to scare us into moving.”

Attorneys at the Queens Office of the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit in February against NYSUM to prevent the nonprofit Ministry from evicting remaining tenants, attorney Sateesh Nori said. Nori, who heads the Queens office of the Legal Aid Society, said tenants allege in the lawsuit that they are protected by the city’s Rent Stabilization Law, which gives each of them the right to renewable leases.

A NYSUM attorney said units at the building ire “definitely not” subject to rent stabilization under an exemption of the law that covers units used for charitable purposes. Legal Aid attorneys said NYSUM does not meet the requirements of that exemption.
Attorney Ira Clair also dismissed allegations of harassment and said NYSUM has been trying to reach an amicable agreement with the tenants.

A number of the tenants are low income and would be unable to afford other accommodations, Nori said. Some of the tenants are elderly, living on fixed incomes, some have lived at the building for many years, and some just have nowhere to go if they are evicted, according to Nori.

More than a dozen of the original 39 tenants have given in to threats and bullying tactics used by the Ministry to force them out, a tenant said. “Despite their best efforts to stay, they were scared into moving out before they could be evicted,” the tenant said.

NYSUM has not yet filed suit to obtain a court order to evict the tenants, Nori said. They have been unwilling to negotiate increased rents, or to help tenants to relocate, and have instead been using scare tactics and harassment to try to force the tenants to move.

The court will decide on November 6 whether to make the restraining order permanent.

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