My son and I are middle-income residents of the city, and both of us hold higher education degrees from accredited colleges and universities, but we have been evicted from our coop apartment on 73rd Street in Jackson Heights.
Our coop apartment was wholly paid in cash with money from an inheritance from my mother, a classical pianist who worked with the Grandes Ballet Canadiennes.
Unfortunately, less than a year after we bought the coop, a big water pipe break occurred in the apartment on top of us that flooded our apartment and caused extensive damage.
It was a “force manure,” not our fault, as we do not own the water pipes on top of our apartment.
We stopped paying our maintenance fees, as the apartment was rendered uninhabitable, and New York State Real Estate laws state that it is the duty of the coop board to maintain the apartment in a habitable condition to require coop owners to pay maintenance fees.
The coop board started eviction proceedings against us.,
We followed all the rules of Housing Court. Unfortunately, the judge sided with the landlord and its lawyers.
The judge stated in her decision that as coop owners, my son and I are "responsible for the upkeep" of our apartment. This decision is erroneous, contains errors in law, errors in fact, abuse of power and abuse of discretion.
The insurance agency of the owners corporation stated very clearly that "as a result of water pipes that the original sponsor changed during alteration of the apartment on top of us" our apartment suffered extensive damage.
After the judge’s decision, no amount of appeal on our side to the higher courts could change her decision.
My son and I were eventually evicted. The eviction took place on a Friday afternoon, when Housing Court is closed for the weekend, and we had no access to a lawyer. Without a lawyer, all appeals arising from Housing Court go to the Appellate Term.
The Appellate Term is a dead-end zone. There is a huge justice gap in Housing Court, from the lowest level to the Appellate Term.
Furthermore, all appeals from the Appellate Term to the higher court, the Appellate Division, are routinely denied without any word of explanation.
For this reason, I wish to form a Citizens Committee for Justice in Housing Court. Readers who want to establish much-needed justice can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cecilia Gullas is a registered nurse and resident of Queens.