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RICH v. LUBIN

May 20, 2004.

ROBERTA RICH, Plaintiff
v.
STEVEN LUBIN, MIDWOOD REALTY CO., LLC, RUDY CARACAS, MR. GLUCK, MR. BENAROSCH, CHARLES FRIED, and MR. ROSENWASSER, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS GRIESA, Senior District Judge

Opinion

This is a housing discrimination action by pro se plaintiff Roberta Rich against her former landlord and against employees of the landlord. Defendant Midwood Realty Co. was the landlord of Rich's apartment building at 1420 Avenue L in Brooklyn, New York. Defendant Rudy Caracas was the superintendent of the building, and defendant Rosenwasser was the manager of the building. Defendants Gluck, Benarosch, and Charles Fried were also employed in some capacity by Midwood. It is not clear from the pleadings what relationship defendant Steven Lubin had to the other defendants or to Rich. In any event, Lubin is not relevant to the motion before the Court.

Rich alleges that she was sexually harassed by Lubin, Caracas, Gluck, Benarosch, Fried, and Rosenwasser, and that the harassment created a hosfile housing environment in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. Rich also alleges that she was illegally evicted from her apartment.

  Defendants Midwood, Caracas, Gluck, Benarosch, Fried, and Rosenwasser move for summary judgment on both of Rich's claims. Taking together the allegations in the complaint and Rich's deposition, the Court finds that there are triable issues with respect to Caracas and with respect to Midwood as Caracas's employer. There are surely substantial issues of credibility, but these issues cannot be determined on a motion for summary judgment. As to the other defendants the motion for summary judgment is granted, and in view of this, certain further discussion as to those defendants is necessary.

  FACTS

  On April 1, 1979 Rich moved to 1420 Avenue L, apartment A4, in Brooklyn. She resided there until she was evicted on November 7, 2001. It appears from the record that Rich had one or more roommates for some or all of that period.

  Rich alleges with respect to defendant Gluck that he placed sexually harassing telephone calls to her during an unspecified period of time beginning after 1994. Rich stated in her deposition that when she began receiving the phone calls she did not know who the caller was, and that she therefore reported the calls to the police. Rich stated that a detective handling her complaint reported to her that the calls were traced to the home of Rosenwasser, and that the calls were made by Gluck. The complaint does not describe the content of the calls, and Rich stated in her deposition that she did not recall what was said in the telephone calls.

  Rich does not allege when the calls took place, or how often they occurred. It is possible that the time frame for the calls is established by a February 10, 1997 letter from NYNEX telephone company, attached to the complaint, which makes reference to a trace that was placed on calls received by Rich. The letter states that the evidence obtained by NYNEX from the trace would be provided to the local police department. :

  With respect to defendant Benarosch, Rich makes several allegations of harassment. Rich states that Benarosch asked her for dates on several occasions, and harassed her in other ways. In one instance when Benarosch was speaking with Rich regarding bathroom file that needed to be replaced in her apartment, Benarosch suggested that he and Rich could go out and discuss the file. Rich states that on this occasion Benarosch also noted that Rich's roommate was not at home. Rich points to this as evidence that Benarosch harassed her because she was a single woman. On another occasion, according to Rich, when Benarosch was in Rich's apartment with defendant Fried and another individual to repair Rich's stove, Benarosch, standing directly in front of Rich in her kitchen, commented, "Oh, that feels good." Rich interpreted that comment as being sexual in nature and in reference to her standing near Benarosch. Rich also states that there was an occasion when she was walking on Coney Island Avenue and Benarosch "cut her off" in his car. Finally, Rich states that on one occasion she tried to enter her apartment building and Benarosch "cornered" her to prevent her from entering. Rich states that she threatened to call the police, and that Benarosch said, "By the time they get here I'll be gone."

  It is unclear in what time period these actions by Benarosch occurred. Rich's complaint states that they occurred in 2001. However, in her deposition she indicated that Benarosch harassed her on several occasions between 1998 and 2001.

  Rich's allegations against defendants Fried and Rosenwasser are substantially sparser even than those against Gluck and Benarosch. Rich stated in her deposition that Fried behaved in an unfriendly way toward her when he came to her apartment to make repairs. With respect to Rosenwasser, Rich stated in her deposition that she hardly dealt with him, but that on one occasion when she saw him outside the building he told her, "I can't wait until you're evicted."

  Rich also asserts a cause of action for illegal eviction. She states that defendants "made up charges" in order to evict her from her apartment, and that she was subjected to "intimidation, burglaries, and bribery" by defendants in order to coerce her to leave.

  Midwood's attempts to evict Rich were the subject of extensive proceedings in the Brooklyn Housing Court between 1999 and 2001. Some time in 1999 Midwood initiated eviction proceedings against Rich alleging violations of Section 2524.3(e) of the New York City Rent Stabilization Code. Midwood alleged that Rich created a nuisance in her apartment by harassing Midwood and its agents and denying them access to her apartment in order to make repairs that Rich herself had demanded be made. In a November 30, 1999 decision Judge Marcia Sikowitz of the Kings County Housing Court found in favor of Midwood and ordered that Midwood be awarded possession of Rich's apartment. In her decision Judge Sikowitz reviewed a history of conflict between Rich and defendants in the instant action, dating back to 1997. Judge Sikowitz found that Rich had blocked defendants from accessing her apartment to make repairs, while continuing to file complaints about the need for the repairs and herself causing damage to the apartment. It should be noted that the decision-made no mention of any issue with regard to sexual harassment of Rich by Midwood employees.

  It appears that Rich was not represented by counsel in-the proceedings leading to the judge's opinion. Judge Sikowitz conducted an examination of Rich to ascertain whether Rich was able to proceed without representation, and concluded that Rich "is extremely intelligent and ...


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