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TALBOT v. ROMNEY

February 8, 1971

Charlene TALBOT et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
George ROMNEY, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development, et al., Defendants


Motley, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MOTLEY

MOTLEY, District Judge.

This is a motion for summary judgment brought by plaintiff, Delores Jackson, to require defendants, Albert Walsh, Administrator of New York City Housing and Development Administration, and the City of New York, to house plaintiff and her two children in one of the unoccupied apartments at 360 Greenwich Street, New York City, at a reasonable rent until such time as the other tenants presently residing therein are required by order of the court to vacate the premises [the court order and its terms are discussed, infra ]. The building in question is one which has been scheduled for demolition as part of the Washington Square Urban Renewal Project.

 The motion for summary judgment seeks to resolve one issue of law. That is, to use plaintiff's words: ". . . whether a city which has taken possession of habitable dwellings pursuant to an urban renewal plan, and by means of federal funding, is required by federal law to rent all available apartments in said dwellings to homeless or otherwise needy persons." (Plaintiff's Statement of Uncontested Facts, at 1). *fn1"

 Defendants have cross-moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1361, 2201, and 2202.

 I. BACKGROUND AND FACTS

 Plaintiff and her two children, public assistance recipients, were evicted from the Holland Hotel, euphemistically known as a "Welfare Hotel", on February 24, 1970, due to the now acknowledgedly unjustified termination of their public assistance benefits. Since that date, plaintiff claims that she has been unable to locate suitable housing despite diligent efforts to do so. She has, therefore, been forced to move in with various relatives, sometimes, of necessity being separated from her children, and depriving them of needed parental guidance.

 The premises at 360 Greenwich Street to which plaintiff seeks access is part of an urban renewal project which came into being over eight years ago. The property was condemned and title vested in the City of New York as long ago as 1965. Most of the former tenants have now been relocated. However, declarations of readiness to begin redevelopment which the City of New York has made and was making as early as 1968, notwithstanding, there has been little to date done toward implementation of the project plan. [For a full review of the project's history, see Talbot v. Romney, 321 F. Supp. 458 (S.D.N.Y., 1970)]. The upshot of all of this is that 360 Greenwich Street, a building containing residences which, with some repair could be rendered habitable, has stood vacant for several years and so stands presently, while needy persons, such as plaintiff, go without adequate shelter.

 Plaintiff Jackson is but one of four others here joined in an effort to obtain and to maintain residence at the aforesaid address. The other plaintiffs were already tenants on the site at the time the project began. The on-site tenants obtained the relief they sought in August, 1970, when Lasker, J., in response to their motion for summary judgment granted a preliminary injunction against defendants' demolition of the 360 Greenwich Street property and prohibited the eviction of the on-site tenants until such time as

 
"projects planned for the renewal site encompassing said premises have been authorized by all appropriate governmental bodies and until such time as sponsors for said projects have adequately demonstrated their readiness, ability and willingness to proceed forthwith with the development of the renewal site." Talbot v. Romney, supra at 471 (Order filed September 10, 1970).

 Judge Lasker in granting the injunction recognized the defendants' obligation to provide on-site tenants with decent, safe and sanitary relocation housing, and found that defendants had not fulfilled that obligation with respect to those tenants. (All were artists with special space needs for their work and minimal funds to expend therefor). Judge Lasker found that the relocation requirements of the National Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1441 et seq. were "designed to guarantee 'that, in clearing slum areas, government would not be driving into still worse conditions the people who lived in those areas.' [citation omitted]." Id. at 470. The premature forced moving of on-site tenants into areas ill-suited for the pursuit of their occupations, absent a showing of present readiness to construct would violate the National Housing Act requirements and policy, Judge Lasker found.

 In passing upon defendants' challenge to the standing of the on-site plaintiffs to raise such a claim, the court relied upon the Second Circuit opinion in Norwalk CORE v. Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, 395 F.2d 920 (2d Cir. 1968) in which it was said,

 
"Since the section [42 U.S.C. § 1455c] requires provision for the relocation of displaced families, it can hardly be thought that displaced families such as plaintiffs, do not have the required personal stake in the outcome of litigation where a violation of the section is claimed." Id. at 932.

 Judge Lasker concluded that the interest of displacees in adequate relocation were among those interests which the National Housing Act was passed in part to protect, and that as such, displacees had standing to sue when ...


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