Criminal justice advocates are hoping to head-off the crackdown against NYCHA tenants that the city’s Department of Investigation endorsed in a report last month.

In an investigation released March 28, DOI alleged that the public-housing authority is too lenient when presented with evidence that tenants “participated in, or knew or should have known of serious criminal activity that is threatening the safety and security of public housing neighbors.” NYCHA rarely evicts tenants linked to an arrest, often choosing instead to let a tenant family stay so long as they promise that the individual accused of the crime doesn’t live there anymore. But DOI says NYCHA rarely enforces those “permanent exclusion” settlements.

DOI recommended NYCHA prosecute those cases more aggressively, request evictions in more cases and consider letting armed law-enforcement officers—rather than NYCHA staff—inspect apartments for banned people.

Even in cases where the head of a household didn’t have anything to do with the crime, but where the criminal activity in question “stems from gangs or crews based in a specific housing development or neighborhood,” DOI recommended that NYCHA “consider mandating that the household transfer to a different development far away from the locus of crime, and/or downsize to an appropriately-sized apartment.”

While the number of murders and shootings dropped significantly at NYCHA developments from 2015 to 2016, overall crime edged up 2 percent. Year-to-year trends aside, NYCHA properties are still the scene of a disproportionate number of serious felonies, according to DOI. For example, the housing authority hosts 5 percent of the city’s population but NYCHA developments saw 19 percent of New York’s murders in 2016.

“NYCHA has an obligation to protect the residents of its buildings,” DOI commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement that accompanied the report. Calling NYCHA’s performance “inexcusable,” Peters added: “Unlike other concerns at NYCHA, this is not the result of underfunding or lack of tools. Rather it is a repeated failure to act decisively long after a problem and solution have been well documented.”

The Daily News editorial board piled on, accusing NYCHA of “missing many malefactors still menacing law-abiding neighbors” and saying the authority “wrongly refuses those common-sense measures” DOI proposed.

But advocates see a different reality: One in which NYCHA’s reluctance to evict families caught up in the criminal justice system is a lot more sensible than creating hundreds of new clients for the homeless shelter system.

The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Coalition for the Homeless, Community Service Society of New York, Fortune Society, Legal Aid Society, New York Civil Liberties Union, Osborne Association and VOCAL-NY are issuing a statement (see it here or below) Wednesday urging NYCHA and the City Council to reject the “misguided and irresponsible approach to safety” espoused by DOI.

“Evicting families will not increase public safety, it will just create bigger problems. Putting armed investigators in NYCHA will not make residents feel safer, it will just raise tension with residents, and create the potential for the often tragic consequences of use of force,” the statement reads. “We are disturbed that the DOI report fails to recognize the complexities of this issue and its connections to other serious issues in the city like homelessness and alienation between the community and occupying forces.”

The statement notes that much of the evidence in DOI’s research is based on arrests without any indication whether courts found actual guilt. DOI also refers multiple times to the fact that people accused of crimes use as their mailing address a NYCHA apartment from which they have been banned. “Residents, public housing stakeholders, and experts know that, for many people, using the address of a family member living in NYCHA is the most reliable way that they can be reached. People unstably housed or living in shelters often use family addresses to get mail because it is the only way that they can be reached,” the statement reads. “Thus, when a law enforcement or government official demands an address, they use the best address at which they can receive a court notice or get a message, even when they are not living there.”

What’s more, there’s substantial evidence that stable housing is more an antidote to than an ingredient of a life of crime.

“DOI cavalierly criticizes NYCHA and promotes evictions, urging NYCHA to throw children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents out of their homes while their colleagues in city government are trying to find housing for and stabilize families,” the statement continues. “It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t build on what we know about effective approaches to reducing violence.”

City Limits reported in 2015 on the severe impact permanent exclusion had on family members who were never accused of being part of any criminal enterprise. Earlier this year City Limits reported on a promising NYCHA pilot allowing former inmates to return to public-housing developments.

Statement in Response to DOI Report by City Limits (New York) on Scribd

6 thoughts on “Evictions Aren’t the Answer, Say Advocates, After Investigations Dept. Slams NYCHA

  1. Its a shameful cycle, evicting families for them to go to a shelter for then to be put on a waiting list to be placed again in public housing… There’s no remedy to that..

  2. So, the “19% of NYC murders happen in the projects” statistic is supposed to make us believe NYCHA buildings are dangerous places. And we are supposed to assume too that the murderers live in NYCHA, which may or may not be true.

    Then, DOI suggests that tenants either get evicted for something they didn’t do (because the 17 year-old hit-man is likely not the leaseholder) or they get relocated to another project (where, presumably, there are other, probably rival, gangs and murderers). Clearly this is not a viable solution.

    And all of this will be paid for by the City, while the City is also funding more and more “anti-eviction services” for tenants. This means NYC tax payers would end up to funding both sides of an unnecessary war against poor people.

  3. They need to continue to evict certain families, due to loud music playing, dirty apartments, smoking wee and rodents infested apartments. The people downstairs from where I live just moved in a few months ago. I can not sleep nor sit down in my living room due to the parties and the wee smoking that goes on inside the apartment. My mother which is in her late 70’s get’s headaches and has sleeping problems due to the music playing. I also have a 5 year old that suffer’s from asthma and is always coughing due to the smoke. I have complain to management , but they mentioned that they will be going to court soon. Management Claimed these hoods had lost their other apartment due to a fire in the same NYCHA building. Many people have also given complains about these inconsiderate individuals. NYCHA needs to gave apartment’s to decent hard working people who respect the fact that other’s wake up the morning to work and that really need apartment’s due to harsh and economical reasons.

    • I ego your sentiments and hear you loud and clear, get involved in your tenant association, make them accountable, they are elected officials and have access to the people who can do something about our complains, there is a way, we just have to find out, going to your TA President is a big start

  4. i also agree with jasel king
    if you commit a crime and you live in a nycha development then you should be given a warning if another crime is committed that your lease should be terminated and given to others who are either on a waiting list for 11 years or hard working honest families.
    many of the crimes that are committed are in the same developments making others living here very unsafe. they commit the crimes and 3 days later they are hanging out again in front of the building or hallways

  5. Sorry to say but if tenants want to live in a home, why should they be allowed to break the rules, vs being homeless, I say suffer the consequences. Why should we the law abiding tenants not only suffer the consequences of their actions but the children growing in the community are victimized also. When I moved in NYCHA, there was a middle age woman who was selling drugs out of her apartment, this is during the crack epidemic, business for her was so good that someone decided to rob her, thank God no one was killed, she got shot in the foot and her son in the back, resulting in him being paralyzed. It gets better, she moved in the same building to a disable apartment, while she no longer sold drugs, the young men in the community were allowed to do what ever they needed to do to continue the trade, her apartment was raided periodically I guess to make it look good, but our children were effected, becoming addicts, felons etc. Oh you want to know how it ended, she died a tenant of NYCHA, you want to know who was effected, not only her own family, but the community at large. Any comments!!!

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