The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Legal Beagles Sniff Scumbag Scent

Scene: Legal Aid Society, Downtown Brooklyn.

Cast of Characters: Six poorly paid lawyers, four brave women whose families are in the Homeless Shelter System; a leader each from PLGNA, Tenants & Neighbors, Crown Heights Tenants Union, an advocate for the women, chief of staff at Diana Richardson's office, yours truly, and a lady named Isis whose mom's lived at 60 Clarkson for more than 40 years.

Action: The ladies of 60 Clarkson lay it all out there. They've been kicked around one too many times and they're looking for redress. They don't want to be forcibly removed, sometimes with TWO hours notice, to even worse buildings. And most of all, they don't want to be sent up to PATH in the Bronx to start the whole process over again. They're IN an apartment, they're getting their lives together, why throw it all into chaos again? So the Landlord can throw on some paint, turn everyone out, and sell to an unsuspecting dolt who thinks the building comes without baggage? Enough is enough, say they.

Re-action: Legal Aid says they too have been sniffing at the scent of Municipal Betrayal. The case of 60 Clarkson and its shamefully greedy and deceitful landlord Barry Hers has the makings of landmark. They write a letter for each resident to use if someone tells them they must leave, saying that legal issues are being worked on and besides, you can't just turn someone out on their ass because you want to.

MacGuffin: Barry Hers, a name none of us ever assumed to be given, is actually surnamed Herskowitz, first name Isaac or somesuch. There are many reasons why a man like Barry wouldn't want people to know his real name, but we're on to you dude.

Plot Summary: Herskowitz buys building, runs building into the ground through neglect, forces out rent stabilized tenants by any means necessary, replaces them with homeless clients thru the poorly overseen DHS "Scattersite" system, gets over $3K a month for apartments that used to fetch less than $1,000, has to share some of that dough with CAMBA to provide social services, doesn't like sharing, so creates his only social services provider called "We Always Care" so he can get ALL the money, continues to run his building into the ground, does the same with at least five other buildings, looks for an exit strategy in which he sells nearly vacant buildings for tens of millions of dollars leaving a trail of misery and heartbreak and the stink of rodent feces.

At least one of the lawyers smells blood. This is good. This is very good. The whole system is rotten, and guys like Herskowitz exploit both the City and human beings for private gain. Is it illegal? No one can say for sure. It's only been tested in housing court and never made it to Appellate Court for a true rendering of whether this program is really legal. Here's why it needs to change.

Essentially, each time a landlord like Hers(kowitz) turns a rent stabilized apartment into a "temporary" home for someone in the DHS system, it's no longer available for rent-paying lease-holding tenants. In a housing crisis of current magnitude, that's absurd on top of cruel. It incentivizes a landlord to kick, harass or lure out tenants who pay the legal rent. PLUS, he then assumes that he's deregulated the apartments. After all, they've been fetching north of $3,000 apiece for years. Some folks like Merlinda have been in this "temporary" housing for five years! That's a lot of money for one landlord to make while doing ZERO repairs and providing NO security and at best SHODDY social services. Whoever said poverty doesn't pay wasn't a slumlord. It pays just fine, thank you.

Barry needs to be taken to court, no doubt about it. But it's the system that nurtures the Barries of the world that needs an overhaul. Think about it; all the court needs to do is say that these women ARE living in rent stabilized apartments. Instead of working hard to get them vouchers like Section 8 or its offshoots so they can move somewhere else, why not give them the option to stay right where they are and pay less taxpayer money than currently? Their kids are in local schools, they've made friends on the block, the building has become a family. Sure you need to look case by case to see if it's appropriate and whether the homeless families have been upholding their side of the bargain, but a legal victory for sanity means keeping these apartments affordable even after the homeless families are gone. DHS gets to take one family off its rolls. The De Blasio Administration can claim it saved a rent-stabilized apartment. Right?

AND...if you need facilities for homeless folks, let's agree not to take away the most valuable asset in the City right now. Affordable apartments.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. Oh, right. I'm not a lawyer. Dang, I knew there was a problem in my plan somewhere. But wait! We have Legal Aid Society on the case! Right?


 

24 comments:

MikeF said...

This landlord is a beginner.

When he goes pro, he will open up a publicly funded charter school in a really low income neighborhood. He will then push the most problematic students out of the school, into the hands of his for profit juvenille prison system.

When they become teenagers, he will graduate them into his adult facilities.

Houston, we have a problem.

diak said...

Oh how I wish some of that money could be spent finding Mr Herskowitz "temporary housing" on Riker's Island.
Followed by more permanent subsidized quarters much farther upstate (you know, the kind with razor-wire fencing).
And ultimately, eternal residency in hell...

Anonymous said...

Barry Inc is small fish. A few buildings and milking a system that begs for it.
Fry him he deserves it.
A Much bigger issue is the "non for profits"
Check the administrators salaries.
As someone who was involved in the business untill very recently it has been made very clear that Diblazio wants the system shut down.
What remains unclear however is what to do with the consumers currently in the system.

Anonymous said...

You can thank Senor Bloombito, El Terrible himself for all of this. DHS is one of the most corrupt agencies in the city! I would call him the devil but that wouldn't fair to Satan (if he even exists). De Blasio is left having to clean up the dysfunction, incompetence and malfeasance from the last administration. Nearly a decade of draconian policies in dealing with housing and homelessness has left this city in a position where there is very little the city can do to reverse all of this. Even if the city wants to do the right thing, there are thousands of people this like all over the city. The city doesn't have the resources to house all of these homeless families and Albany has put the breaks on De Blasio's affordable housing plan. Homelessness is here to stay unless there is a radical shift in housing policies and with DHS.

Dealing with Barry Hers is like dealing with an mob enforcer. There are thousands of Barry Hers all over this city. He was doing this for years so he knows how to play the game and cheat his tenants.

http://www.bkmag.com/2015/04/13/while-citys-shelters-in-disrepair-department-of-homeless-services-blew-money-on-fancy-garbage/

summer said...

this story has gotten a lot of play on the facebook group and now here

the folks in question have no legal rights to stay. theyre in the shelter system. it is sad and shocking but you are giving the tenants false hope. please believe when i say they have no case. sorry.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Summer: Why should I believe what you say over the lawyers? You don't change anything if you don't try.

Trust me, they know what they're up against. Luckily, they got their vouchers now and can sign a lease elsewhere. After five years, you gotta wonder why this is happening right now? Maybe it's because we've been dogging DHS for the past two years, and now the news media is on it?

False hope, maybe. But things are finally moving.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

Excellent work dogging this son-of-a-bitch.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Summer. It seems that the facts are unclear. What is the end game? If all this media (social and other) and neighborhood attention has gotten the familes of 60 Clarkson a housing voucher, that is awesome! But all the press release, the fliers, the rally, all calling them tenants who are being illegally evicted? It is just confusing everyone, shelter clients and others. They are not tenants of the building. They are in emergency housing. (They absolutely are refugees as you call them.)
When they go into the building they sign a contract saying they will move out within nine months. They are not in a rent stabilized apartment. They do not pay rent. The city pays their rent.
So many of them have been there five years because of three reasons: our vicious capitalist climate (high rents, low paying jobs), no housing subsidy for poor people until last fall, (LINC is its name. You have to be working . The money is limited so there are only certain number of the vouchers available and most landlords are reluctant to take it). Also it is absolutely impossible to kick a shelter client onto the streets. There is civil service law from the 1980's stating anyone who can prove they need emergency housing, the city must house. The landlord is moving the families to other shelter buildings. So they don’t like the new buildings conditions? Are they really any worse than the conditions at 60 Clarkson. Press conferences, press releases, rallies, Legal Aid all because they are being illegally evicted? The guy is probably consolidating buildings because he has too many violations at 60 to keep the place open, which happens every week in our vast NYC shelter system. So really the crime is housing people in old decaying buildings. As some of us know even renters we are forced to live in old decaying buildings. As far as DHS being corrupt? What system out there is not corrupt: the Department of Ed (for profit Charter school), the prison system (for profit prisons) , the foster care system (for profit foster mothers). I think the best possible end game here is if we keep going and dismantle capitalism all together.

Chester said...

I agree with Summer. It seems that the facts are unclear. What is the end game? If all this media (social and other) and neighborhood attention has gotten the familes of 60 Clarkson a housing voucher, that is awesome! But all the press release, the fliers, the rally, all calling them tenants who are being illegally evicted? It is just confusing everyone, shelter clients and others. They are not tenants of the building. They are in emergency housing. (They absolutely are refugees as you call them.)
When they go into the building they sign a contract saying they will move out within nine months. They are not in a rent stabilized apartment. They do not pay rent. The city pays their rent.
So many of them have been there five years because of three reasons: our vicious capitalist climate (high rents, low paying jobs), no housing subsidy for poor people until last fall, (LINC is its name. You have to be working . The money is limited so there are only certain number of the vouchers available and most landlords are reluctant to take it). Also it is absolutely impossible to kick a shelter client onto the streets. There is civil service law from the 1980's stating anyone who can prove they need emergency housing, the city must house. The landlord is moving the families to other shelter buildings. So they don’t like the new buildings conditions? Are they really any worse than the conditions at 60 Clarkson. Press conferences, press releases, rallies, Legal Aid all because they are being illegally evicted? The guy is probably consolidating buildings because he has too many violations at 60 to keep the place open, which happens every week in our vast NYC shelter system. So really the crime is housing people in old decaying buildings. As some of us know even renters we are forced to live in old decaying buildings. As far as DHS being corrupt? What system out there is not corrupt: the Department of Ed (for profit Charter school), the prison system (for profit prisons) , the foster care system (for profit foster mothers). I think the best possible end game here is if we keep going and dismantle capitalism all together.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Reread the background, Chester. It's not just about them being evicted. It's that the whole DHS scattersite system is a disaster.

It's not just about these families, but it IS about them in the sense that we want them to have a chance. And by the reasoning of your last few snarky sentences, I'll bet you'd prefer we just let corruption roll. In my experience, if you don't call government on its bull they just keep grabbing.

For the "fiscal conservatives" out there, how can it make sense to pay private landlords north of $3,000 a month to house homeless families in actual rent stabilized apartments? The only group making out in this situation is the greediest of landlords.

And your statement that "some of us live in old decaying buildings" is not what we're talking about. My home is old and to some degree I'm sure decaying. It's 100 years old. But it's maintained. I don't have rats and roaches everywhere. The paint isn't peeling. The roof isn't leaking. I can get mail. The locks and doors work. The plumbing works. We have heat, electricity and running hot and cold water.

If your apartment doesn't meet those basic standards, that's CRIMINAL. Slumlords can't be tolerated, even if they are (sadly) tolerated.

MikeF said...

What's more ironic is that while the city is in charge of enforcing housing conditions, it simultaneously actually runs AND OWN the NYC buildings that are most in need of repair: http://www.thenation.com/article/new-york-city-housing-authority-may-be-citys-worst-landlord/

Seth said...

I have avoided this conversation because I understand people sympathize with the residents of 60 Clarkson. As do I. However I have seen a number of comments from people with expertise in this area and I do not understand where Tim and a lot of others are coming from.

It's good to fight of course! But imagine I decide to sue Bill de Blasio over this. In small claims court.

And you say "Seth what is the point of that?!" and I retort "Hey you don't change anything if you don't try."

So you get my idea. Fighting without an end game or battle plan doesn't make much sense. The point is that the occupants of 60 Clarkson don't have any legal right to stay there. Does that stink? Yeah. But I am more than convinced from the comments I have read and people I have spoken to that this is all a bit off in aim. The media coverage and political pressure is great and seems to have gotten them vouchers. That is awesome. But this case isn't going to let the people stay in 60 Clarkson or change a massive clusterpoop of a system which needs legislative and funding changes on city, state and federal levels.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I already told you the endgame, Seth. Get DHS to stop taking rent-stabilized apartments and turning them into homeless shelters. You disagree with that? Fine. Don't support the lawsuit.

I would remind you that it was a lawsuit that created this untenable situation. The suit requires that every person seeking shelter is given a place. Well and good. But the City has not built enough shelters. And when someone comes in with children and is a victim of abuse? You can't just send them to a random shelter.

So I ask...what's the harm in trying to convince the City to reexamine its Homeless Family strategy?

At the very least, and think this through with me now, these people ALREADY HAVE a place to live! Why give them vouchers to move somewhere else for the same or higher price? That's pure insanity.

Seth said...

It is total insanity. On that we agree.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should think this through, too. With the onslaught of homeless people coming into the city's homeless intake center, 24 hours a day, seven fays a week, do you think they can afford to take a shelter apartment offline?

Anonymous said...

"Barry Hers" with his fake name is a horrible person, no doubt but my biggest disgust at how this city runs things. NYC is the villain here. Why on earth would the city give that kind of money to a landlord like Hers with his phony not-for-profit? That's definitely a Bloomberg style move, as somebody pointed out. Something else that defines this fine city, what Mike F describes in the first comment, greedy, supremely entitled people like Barry Hers who find legal ways to milk the system, establishing charter schools in poor neighborhoods and paying themselves a nice salary.

Dynishal said...

Sometimes it's appropriate to engage in litigation just to shine light on unfairness. I hope this case will serve that purpose but it's also a substantive defense of rights these families arguably have as multi-year residents of rent stabilized units in 60 Clarkson. Many rights of NYC's homeless individuals and families have today were established through litigation and related consent decrees. It's not a stretch to imagine that this case might lead to some significant, positive change for the directly impacted families and others. Certainly, it's on stronger legal footing than other cases that have enjoyed significant neighborhood support, such as the suit against the as-of-right development of 626 Flatbush and the legal action to preserve the Maple Street Garden. If the community can back those, we can certainly back this.

summer said...

most citizen rights in US o A have been created through legal challenges. good litigation not this dud. lot of you draping youselves in their plight do you know what they want. did you ask. they seem pretty split as does legal aid, Tenants & Neighbors and the politicans.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Of course we asked, you nitwit. Some of them are friends of mine. What a shitty, mean and absurd question...

For the slow or impatient, I'll break it down for you.

1. We want the homeless to get vouchers and proper services, not 2-hour vacate notices
2. We want landlords held accountable for their hellholes
3. We want rent-stabilized apartments to not be taken out of commission so that greedy bastards can get $3,000 a month to run shelters
4. We want to de-incentivize all the activities that make 60 Clarkson such a profitable venture in the first place
5. We want the Mayor and Governor to wake up and clean house

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Better yet, if you're going to take a bunch of our tax money, run a decent, legal and dignified operation. Is that simple enough?

mug of mead said...

Re:"5. We want the Mayor and Governor to wake up and clean house"

This sounds good. Yet, do you really expect the Mayor and the Governor to see eye to eye, especially after the Mayor ripped the Governor in the press?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Literally and figuratively, Mug, they live in different houses with different sorts of filth. There's plenty to do even while they bicker about who's dick is bigger.

summer said...

i have a friend in a shelter is the new I have a black friend

Clarkson FlatBed said...

ok i can give it up. that's hilarious.