NYC: 10 Domestic Violence Victims File Lawsuit

Greg Smith
March 19, 2013

Victims of domestic violence say they’re being abused again — this time by the city Housing Authority.

Ten women filed suit Tuesday alleging NYCHA put them in a bureaucratic twilight zone where requests for safe haven linger for months and even years — with no resolution in sight.

Domestic violence victims are supposed to get priority for apartments, but say NYCHA loses paperwork and demands documents again and again, sometimes forcing them to stay in dangerous situations with abusive spouses or boyfriends.

“I just want an apartment where I can stay with my baby and be safe,” said 26-year-old plaintiff Ms. B., cradling her 10-month-old daughter at a City Hall news conference announcing the suit filed by Legal Services NYC.

Ms. B, who first submitted her application in August, spoke of returning again and again to NYCHA offices, only to be told to try again because she’d filed the wrong paperwork.

During her last visit, she said a NYCHA worker told her she hadn’t included the name of her assailant husband or the location and date of the last attack on her forms. When the information was pointed out, the worker’s supervisor then rejected the application because “the format was wrong.”

Another victim, J.C., suffered fractured ribs; swelling to her face, feet and arms; bite marks on her breast, and knife wounds from her abusive husband, according to court papers.

Nearly a year after she applied for a NYCHA apartment, she’s still waiting. Her last denial came in December, when the authority said she was missing documents she submitted three times previously, court papers say.

Ms. O, a 26-year-old mother of a 7-year-old who first submitted her NYCHA application in 2011, said she has moved from shelter to shelter while she awaits an apartment. “It’s not healthy for me or my child. We’re really stressed and depressed. My son cries for his own space,” she told the Daily News.

Legal Services’ attorney Beth Baltimore said NYCHA’s “incompetence . . . resulted in applications that are wrongly and without due process delayed, denied and classified as dead.”

Current NYCHA residents who become domestic violence victims also experience delays if they request a transfer to a safe apartment, records show.

City Council Member Rosie Mendez (D-Manhattan) said NYCHA tenants who become abuse victims are supposed to get priority transfers but have recently been left in the lurch.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about safety,” she said.

In the mayor’s management report filed last month, NYCHA revealed an alarming spike in the time it takes to find a new home for NYCHA tenants who are domestic abuse victims, intimidated witnesses in criminal cases or child sexual abuse victims.

Between last July and October, transfer time averaged more than 60 days — way up from the 38-day average over the last few years — the report stated.

NYCHA blamed the increase on a growing backlog due to a recent influx of new cases and promised it’s “working on a plan to ensure that disposition times return” to levels below a 45-day target.

On Tuesday, NYCHA spokeswoman Sheila Stainback declined to describe that plan.