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YOUNG v. HALLE HOUSING ASSOC.

May 7, 2001

SIMONE YOUNG, NATHANIEL HAYNES, ANTONIO PEREZ, ANIBAL TORRES, AND VICTOR HAWKINS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HALLE HOUSING ASSOCIATES, L.P., ED TENHOR, DAVID RANSOM, RICHARD ROBERTS, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING WEST PAGE 356



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerard E. Lynch, District Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Simone Young, Nathaniel Haynes, Antonio Perez, Anibal Torres and Victor Hawkins are residents of a privately owned and operated supportive-housing single room occupancy facility located at 510 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn New York (the "Muhlenberg"). Plaintiffs were tenants at the Muhlenberg prior to its transformation into supportive housing.*fn1 They bring this action under 42 § U.S.C. 1983 alleging that the Muhlenberg's prohibition of overnight guests violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and several federal statutes and regulations.*fn2 The Complaint also alleges violations of the common law and real property law of New York State.

This action has been brought against defendant Halle Housing Associates, L.P. ("Halle Housing"), an entity related to a private non-profit corporation named Lutheran Social Services ("LSS") that owns and manages the Muhlenberg, and two of the Muhlenberg's managers, Ed Tenhor and David Ransom (collectively the "Halle Defendants"). In addition, plaintiffs have sued the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD"), Richard T. Roberts, as Commissioner of HPD, the New York City Department of Homeless Services ("DHS"), and Martin Oesterreich as Commissioner of DHS, (collectively, the "Municipal Defendants").

At the close of discovery, all of the parties moved for summary judgment. The parties having appeared for oral argument and after careful consideration of all of the submissions, plaintiffs' motion is denied and defendants' motions are granted. The principal issue in the case is whether the actions of the Halle Defendants constitute state action for purposes of§ 1983.

Facts*fn3

Most of the relevant facts are not in dispute.

Plaintiffs are residents in a privately owned and operated residence located at 510 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The residence was formerly a private single room occupancy ("SRO") residence known as the Nevins Hotel (the "Nevins") that had been in a state of disrepair for many years prior to its purchase and rehabilitation by Halle Housing. (See Tenhor Dep. at 3 1-32.) Its tenants apparently included individuals with substance abuse problems, elderly people, and persons suffering from various mental illnesses, none of whom were receiving basic care or social services. (See Torres Dep. at 29-30, 32-33; Tenhor Dep. at 75.) Defendant Halle Housing is a not-for-profit limited partnership created for the purpose of acquiring and rehabilitating the Nevins as a supportive housing facility. The general partner of Halle Housing is an entity known as the New Times Operating Corp., whose sole shareholder is an investment fund sponsored by LSS known as the Muhlenberg Community Housing Development Fund Corporation.

In 1995. Halle Housing acquired the Nevins, rehabilitated the facility, and renamed it the Muhlenberg Plaza Residence. Each of the plaintiffs remained a resident after the conversion of the Nevins into the Muhlenberg. The Muhlenberg contains 201 units, 34 of which are studio apartments, containing bathroom and kitchenette facilities and ranging in area from 159 to 242 square feet. The remainder are SRO units ranging in size from 100 to 129 square feet, large enough only for a bed, dresser and chair. Generally, four SRO units share a unisex bathroom. of the five plaintiffs in this case, only Nathanial Haynes rents a studio apartment. The remaining plaintiffs rent SRO units of various sizes.

Under the terms of the SHIP loan, Halle Housing is required to make 60% of all vacancies available to homeless individuals. Because it received HOME funds through the SHIP loan, it is also required to make another 40% of its units available to low-income individuals. In addition, upon completion of the rehabilitation, all units became subject to New York's rent stabilization law. These requirements reflected the conditions required by both federal and state law.

Halle Housing also receives rental subsidies under Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f Under this program, an owner agrees to rehabilitate SRO units for occupancy by homeless individuals, in accordance with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's ("HUD") requirements for the program. The federal government subsidizes a portion of a qualifying tenant's rental payments for a unit; in return, the landlord agrees to accept a specified rent applying to the Section 8 units. In addition, HUD imposes certain requirements upon landlords, such as procedures governing the termination of leases. The subsidy attaches to the unit, not to the specific tenant, such that if a tenant leaves the subsidized unit, another person eligible for the program must be placed in the unit. The Section 8 program is administered by the New York HPD under the supervision of HUD. One hundred of the 201 units in the Muhlenberg are governed by Section 8 leases; only one plaintiff, Anibal Torres, lives in a Section 8 unit.

In addition, the Muhlenberg receives contract support subsidies in the amount of $1,085,400 under a three-year agreement with the New York City Department of Homeless Services, pursuant to which the Muhlenberg agrees to provide certain services enumerated by contract, including case management, crisis intervention and desk coverage services. These services are to be administered and supervised by qualified employees of the Muhlenberg, and the funds may not be used to cover the building's general operating expenses. The agreement was renewed for another three years in 1998.

The principal dispute in this case involves the Muhlenberg's overnight guest policy. The Muhlenberg prohibits residents from entertaining visitors between the hours of midnight and eight a.m.. The policy is apparently publicized through house rules posted in the lobby of the building. There is some dispute over whether the policy was merely carried over from rules already in place in the Nevins, or whether it was first promulgated after the building became the Muhlenberg. Defendants have provided testimony that the guest policy existed prior to the renovation (see Tenhor Dep. at 127-28), but plaintiffs contest the accuracy of the testimony. The rules at issue were also contained in a Policy and Procedure Manual developed by Ed Tenhor. (See Tenhor Dep. at 65-66.) The Muhlenberg staff enforces this policy whether or not the tenant in question rented his premises under the Section 8 program or agreed to the policy in writing. (See Tenhor Dep. at 97.)

The policy operates to bar from the premises visitors who have violated the policy in the past, and apparently also those who have had altercations with the management. Testimony by each of the plaintiffs indicates that the policy interfered with their ability to entertain guests freely. Nathanial Haynes was prohibited from celebrating the birth of his nephew with his brother, who was forced to wait outside when he arrived at six a.m. (See Haynes Dep. at 36-8.) A female guest of Victor Hawkins was prohibited from staying after midnight on one occasion. See Hawkins Dep. at 49) The brother-in-law of Antonio Perez was barred from visiting the premises after refusing to leave at midnight. (See Perez Aff ΒΆ 12.) Simone Young's thirteen-year old daughter was barred from the premises because she had stayed overnight in violation of the guest policy. (See ...


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