Cales and Fair Housing Justice Center v. New Castle Hill Realty et al. (S.D.N.Y.)
On April 23, 2010, the Homelessness Outreach and Prevention Project filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging disability and source of income discrimination in violation of local, state, and federal fair housing laws on behalf of Damion Cales. During 2008 and 2009, New York City real estate agents repeatedly refused to show apartments to Mr. Cales when they learned that he did not work and received disability-related benefits. Mr. Cales is a homeless man with disabilities, income from SSI, and a Fixed Income Advantage Voucher that would pay his rent. In July 2009, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) began assisting Mr. Cales with his housing search and conducted a testing investigation. The lawsuit names as defendants New Castle Hill Realty, Anita Realty, Nardin Group of Companies (d/b/a Nardin Realty Group), Delta Properties USA, Inc., Bond New York Properties Group, Atlantic Management Company, Shore Haven Apartments LLC, Fortunate Realty LLC, City Connections Realty, Inc., Metro Realty, LLC, and Bayside NY Homes LLC (d/b/a Keller Williams Realty Landmark), along with the individual agents contacted during the investigation. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the discrimination against Mr. Cales and prevent future discrimination against other renters with disabilities; compensatory and punitive damages for Mr. Cales and FHJC; and attorneys' fees and costs. FHJC is represented by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.
Robles v. Doar
On June 25, 2009, the Urban Justice Center's Homelessness Outreach and Prevention Project and Mental Health Project filed a putative class action in the Southern District of New York against the City's Human Resource Administration (HRA) and the State's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) on behalf of individuals who have been or will be disqualified from food stamps based on their answer in the negative to the marital status question on their recertification form. These individuals have been terminated from the food stamp program, or will be terminated, even though they were not residing with their spouse at the time they recertified and even though marital status does not determine financial eligibility for purposes of participating in the food stamp program. What matters for food stamps purposes is who resides in the household, which at a minimum requires that individuals live together. By the Human Resources Administration's own written admissions, none of the named plaintiffs received an over issuance of food stamps. We have advanced federal statutory and regulatory theories based on implied cause of action, Section 1983, and preemption, a federal due process constitutional claim, state regulatory theories based on implied cause of action and preemption, and a State Administrative Procedure Act claim. In the complaint, we seek declaratory and injunctive relief, including reinstatement of lost benefits.
Taylor v. State of New York, et al.
On December 8, 2008, UJC filed a class action lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the State of New York alleging that the State has violated Article XVII of the New York State Constitution by not providing a basic grant level for public assistance that meets the most basic needs of poor New Yorkers. Under the New York State Constitution, the State must provide for the "aid, care and support" of the needy and define the standard of need for its citizens. One of the ways the State purports to meet its obligation to care for the needy is by providing monthly basic grants of public assistance. However, the Legislature last adjusted the amount of New York's basic public assistance grant in 1989, nearly 20 years ago. In the years since, the cost of living in New York has dramatically increased and thus the grant is grossly inadequate. Indeed, NYC's Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) recently developed a measure to more accurately determine poverty in the City. Using the CEO's poverty measure, the basic public assistance grant amounts to approximately one half of the "bare minimum" it has determined it costs to live just above the poverty line.
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Pro bono co-counsel: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Co-counsel: Economic Justice Project and Main Street Legal Services of the City University of New York School of Law
Williston v. Eggleston
In 2004, the Urban Justice Center filed this federal lawsuit against both New York City's Human Resources Administration (HRA) and New York State's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) alleging a failure to timely provide food stamps, including expedited food stamps to eligible applicants at HRA's Non-Cash Assistance (NCA, formerly NPA) Food Stamp Centers. On April 17, 2008, the Court approved the settlement that had been negotiated by the parties. Under the terms of the settlement, HRA will: (1) screen all Food Stamp applications submitted to NCA Food Stamp Centers for eligibility for expedited processing; and (2) provide Food Stamps to eligible households within five days if eligible for expedited food stamp processing, and within thirty days if otherwise eligible, unless the delay was caused by the household. OTDA must supervise HRA's implementation of the federal timeliness requirements. Additionally, as part of the settlement, an individual relief process has been established. The Court will retain jurisdiction over the case for four years.
Co-counsel: New York Legal Assistance Group and National Center for Law and Economic Justice Project
Sierra v. City of New York, et al.
On July 27, 2007, HOPP filed a lawsuit, Sierra v. City of New York, et al., alleging that a provision of the City's Housing Maintenance Code, which prohibits children between the ages of one and sixteen from residing in single residence occupancy (SRO) units, violates the Fair Housing Act because it discriminates on the basis of familial status. The complaint also alleges that the landlord discriminated against the plaintiff in violation of both the Fair Housing Act and the New York State Human Rights Law, by using the discriminatory provision of the Housing Maintenance Code to try to evict the plaintiff. With the decline in affordable housing throughout New York City, SROs have become one of the few remaining housing options for low-income individuals and families. This lawsuit seeks to have the Housing Maintenance Code provision at issue declared discriminatory on its face, and therefore invalid and unenforceable, in order to ensure that landlords are not able to evict low-income families from affordable housing based on discriminatory reasons.
Co-counsel: West Side SRO Law Project
Harris v. Eggleston
In 2002, Urban Justice Center lawyers discovered that the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA)was illegally terminating the food stamps of thousands of low-income people with disabilities, and filed this federal class action to address the problem. Despite years of warnings from the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), which administers the Food Stamps program, HRA and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) employed a computer program that automatically terminated the food stamps of welfare recipients who were approved for SSI, the federal benefit for people who are poor and severely disabled. SSI recipients, however, are "categorically eligible" to receive food stamps under the Food Stamps Act. On September 27, 2007, Federal Judge Richard M. Berman approved a settlement that is projected to restore millions of dollars – possibly as much as $70 million – to thousands of poor people with disabilities.
Pro bono co-counsel: Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP
Davila v. Eggleston
The Urban Justice Center is counsel to the class in this class action lawsuit filed in 1996, seeking to ensure that single parents with children who receive public assistance obtain the education and training they need to transition from welfare to economic security. In 2003, the case was settled, ensuring that students who seek to participate in education and training can do so. The settlement requires the City to conduct appropriate employability assessments and to honor, to the extent possible, a parent's preference for attending school to satisfy the work requirement. Plaintiff's counsel is currently monitoring city and state compliance with the settlement agreement.
Pro bono co-counsel: Davis, Polk & Wardwell
Co-counsel: Legal Aid Society
Welfare Law Center
Meachem v. Wing
The Urban Justice Center filed this federal class action against the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance in 1999, challenging the failure of that agency to provide due process to appellants in administrative fair hearings. Failure to provide due process in these hearings consistently deprives the plaintiff class of the subsistence level benefits they need to survive. This case settled in February 2005 and required, among other things, that the State re-train Administrative Law Judges with regard to due process rights of appellants. Plaintiff's counsel will monitor State compliance with the settlement agreement.
Pro bono co-counsel: Dewey Ballantine LLP
Co-counsel: Legal Aid Society
Welfare Law Center
Archie v. Grand Central Partnership
The Urban Justice Center filed this federal class action lawsuit in 1995 against two business improvement districts in Midtown Manhattan who were paying homeless workers $1 per hour to clean toilets, provide security services, and do other menial jobs around the districts. After a 1998 ruling in the plaintiffs' favor, the districts appealed. Finally, in a settlement reached in 2000, 198 plaintiffs were awarded over $816,000 in back wages.
Pro bono co-counsel: Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
Betancourt v. Giuliani
The Urban Justice Center filed this federal class action lawsuit in 1997, challenging the arbitrary arrests and subsequent strip searches of homeless people sitting on park benches. In 2000, the district court granted partial summary judgment, upholding the City policy allowing the police to arrest homeless people for sleeping in cardboard boxes in public. We are appealing this decision, and have settled the strip search claim to the benefit of the client.
Pro bono co-counsel: Paul, Weiss, Wharton, Rifkind & Garrison