In the Matter of the Application of Esther Goldman, Petitioner.
New York City Housing Authority, Respondent.
This case is not published in a printed volume and its disposition appears in a table in the reporter.
Eileen Bransten, J.
Petitioner Esther Goldman ("Ms. Goldman") seeks a judgment pursuant to CPLR 7803(3) reversing, annulling, and setting aside the determination of respondent New York City Housing Authority ("NYCHA"), which denied her grievance for an apartment lease as a remaining family member of decedent Helen Erbst ("Ms. Erbst"). NYCHA opposes the petition.
On March 14, 2001, NYCHA received a permanent-resident request for Ms. Goldman to live with Ms. Erbst in her apartment located in the public-housing development called The Independent Towers. See, Verified Petition, Ex. E. In the request, Ms. Erbst allegedly wrote
"Esther initially came to live with me to care for myself. This has developed into a wonderful relationship, and I can't get along without her. She is a close family friend and companion."
At that time, NYCHA had three requirements for obtaining permanent permission for an additional person to join a tenant's household: 1) the tenant of record had to be in current occupancy and in good standing, 2) the proposed additional person must fall within the definition of "family" (i.e., two or more persons living together related by blood, marriage or adoption, or two or more unrelated persons, regardless of gender, living together as a cohesive household), and 3) that person must otherwise be eligible for public housing. Id., Ex J at 7.
Ms. Erbst died on March 16, 2001, two days after the permanent-resident request was made. On April 9, 2001, NYCHA denied the request, finding that there was no familial relationship between Ms. Erbst and Ms. Goldman. Id., Ex H. Ms. Goldman did not notify NYCHA that Ms. Erbst passed away until several months later on July 2, 2001. See, Verified Answer at 13, 67.
Ms. Goldman next asked NYCHA whether she could assume Ms. Erbst's tenancy as a remaining family member. At the relevant time, NYCHA's policy for remaining-family-member status required that the applicant was a member of the original tenant family, became a permanent member of the family subsequent to move-in, or was born or legally adopted into the tenant family subsequent to move-in, and thereafter remained in continuous occupancy up to and including the time the tenant of record moves or dies. See, Verified Petition, Ex J at 12. If the applicant was at least 18 years old, satisfied the aforementioned NYCHA definition of family, and had verifiable income, she/he would be offered the lease. See, Verified Answer, Ex 2. Both the Independence Towers' manager and the NYCHA Brooklyn Borough Administrator separately denied Ms. Goldman's request, finding that she and Ms. Erbst did not meet NYCHA's definition of "family." See, Verified Answer at 13, 68-69.
Ms. Goldman then requested a grievance hearing to review the denial. The hearings took place on September 13, 2005 and November 15, 2005 before an impartial hearing officer ("Hearing Officer"). Ms. Goldman testified that in 1999, when she was 15-years old, she moved into then 77-year-old Ms. Erbst's apartment in order to care and perform daily chores for her. See, September 13, 2005 Transcript at 6, 21-25; at 7, 14-22. She also testified both that she exclusively lived with Ms. Erbst from that time on yet during the same period lived in her parent's apartment located next door. Id., at 8, 4 16. A NYCHA housing assistant testified that Ms. Goldman's parents never officially removed her from their family composition, as reported to The Independent Towers. See, November 15, 2006
Transcript at 88, 13-25. Finally, the Hearing Officer took notice for the record of NYCHA's procedure known as the "death provision", which states
"If during the review period, the tenant who made the request [to add a permanent resident to her/his household] dies. . ., the additional person(s) in the apartment shall be deemed to have lawfully entered the apartment ...