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New Eviction Rules Proposed for NY Public Housing


September-October 1994

The New York City Housing Authority has petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to change the requirements to evict tenants they believe are involved in drug dealing (Stephen Donohue, "Cleaning House of Druggies Proves a Tough Legal Problem for Public Housing," Law Enforcement News, Sept. 15, 1994, p. 1).

The NYC Housing Authority, represented by the American Alliance for Rights and Responsibilities (AARR) of Washington, D.C., argues that it should not be required to follow the current Escalara consent decree that requires an administrative hearing for the parties involved. Instead, the Housing Authority wants to adopt the less restrictive Bawdy House Law, which applies to evictions from private housing. AARR argues that the change is necessary because of the increase in drug activity in the past ten years. According to the Housing Authority Police, there has been a tremendous increase in drug-related arrests in the system, from 812 in 1973 to 11,092 in 1993.

The Legal Aid Society is opposing the Housing Authority's move, arguing that simplifying the eviction process will result in innocent tenants losing their housing. Scott Rosenberg, attorney for the Legal Aid Society, said that the Housing Authority is not considering the innocence of some of the tenants. "Often there are multiple people charged in a drug situation," he said. "There are usually some innocent people [who are subject to eviction who are] dragged in along with the guilty."

Rosenberg tells of a woman who called the police on her son, who was later convicted on drug charges. The Housing Authority obtained an eviction order against the woman after her son went to jail. "It's totally outrageous to try to evict a mother when she turns her own son in to try to get him removed from the household," Rosenberg said. Roger Conner, executive director of AARR, said no innocent people will be evicted under the new rules. "We believe people who tolerate and benefit from drug dealing in their households are not innocent."