*A recent New York Daily News and ProPublica report examining the New York Police Department’s use of a little-known type of lawsuit to evict hundreds of people from homes has resulted in public officials calling for a change.
ProPublica notes how the nuisance abatement law cases occur almost exclusively in neighborhoods occupied by minorities as several New York City council members have voiced their consideration of amendments and other reforms to protect against further abuses.
In its story, the publication and the Daily News found after reviewing 516 residential nuisance abatement actions filed in the Supreme Courts from Jan. 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014 that 173 of the people who gave up their leases or were banned from homes were not convicted of a crime, including 44 people who appear to have faced no criminal prosecution whatsoever.
“Overall, tenants and homeowners lost or had already left homes in three-quarters of the 337 cases for which the Daily News and ProPublica were able to determine the outcome,” ProPublica mentioned, adding that “In at least 74 cases, residents agreed to warrantless searches of their homes, sometimes in perpetuity, as one of the conditions of being allowed back in.”
Upon seeing the nuisance abatement law statistics, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson labeled the facts ‘shocking.’
Gibson isn’t alone in her contempt.
Speaking with ProPublica, Public Advocate Letitia James stated she would conduct a thorough inquiry into “some serious legal and constitutional questions” raised by the publication’s story.
“Some of the rights that individuals are forfeiting, to me, constitutes coercion.” James said.
In addition, support for more safeguards were found with the judge who oversees the day-to-day operation of the state’s trial courts, which handle nuisance abatement cases.
“It strikes me that this law may be broader than it should be,’ said Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks told ProPublica. “The Mayor’s Office and the city council might take a close look at that.”
Although Marks acknowledged an educational session for judges handling the nuisance abatement cases that would be held later this month because of the nuisance abatement law story, he stressed that judges are independent and entitled to apply the law as they interpret it.
When asked about the nuisance abatement story, Mayor Bill de Blasio deferred comment to the NYPD, which ignored repeated requests for comment. The mayor’s deferment is noticeable in light of him being elected after promising police reform.