Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Assoko v. City of New York

April 27, 2009

GILBERT ASSOKO, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
VICKI SEABROOK, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

These actions arise out of the sale of allegedly defective townhouses in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. In two prior opinions, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' original complaints, finding that they failed to state viable claims under, inter alia, the Equal Protection Clause and Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VI"). With leave of Court, plaintiffs filed amended complaints, which defendants City of New York, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Department of Buildings of the City of New York, and Danois Architects have moved to dismiss. By Order dated March 31, 2009, the Court dismissed the amended complaints. This opinion sets out the Court's reasons for doing so.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs in these actions are thirty-one homeowners (fourteen in the Seabrook action, and seventeen the Assoko action), who purchased townhouses through a low income housing program. Plaintiffs contend that the townhouses were grossly defective, and assert claims against various public and private defendants for violations of the Equal Protection Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1, and Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (2006), as well as claims sounding in state law. Plaintiffs' legal theories were described at length in the Court's prior opinions, familiarity with which is assumed. See Assoko v. City of New York, 539 F. Supp. 2d 728 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); Seabrook v. City of New York, 509 F. Supp. 2d 393 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).

On September 14, 2007, the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss all federal claims in the original Seabrook complaint. Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 407. On March 26, 2008, the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss all federal claims in the original Assoko complaint. Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 741-42. In both Seabrook and Assoko, the Court specifically noted a number of deficiencies in the complaints.

With regards to the equal protection claims, the complaints failed to make individualized allegations that similarly situated individuals had been treated differently, and that the City's conduct was motivated by animus or had no rational basis. Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 737; Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 402. In particular, the Court rejected plaintiffs' attempt to plead multiple violations of the equal protection clause through generalized, conclusory allegations that the City wrongfully issued Certifications of Occupancy ("Certificates") for each and every plaintiff's home: "While each plaintiff lists defects in his or her own property, [plaintiffs] do not allege, as they must, that such defects existed at the time of the inspection and issuance of the [Certificate] and should have precluded the issuance of the [Certificate] in each instance." Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 735 (citations omitted); Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 401 (same). With regards to the Title VI claims, the complaints failed to specify "to which protected category, if any, each plaintiff belongs," and what program or activity receiving federal funding discriminated against them. Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 740; Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 406. Finally, with regards to both claims, the complaints failed to make individualized allegations of maltreatment and/or discrimination. Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 735, 740; Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 401, 406.

Having dismissed all of plaintiffs' federal claims, the Court declined pendent jurisdiction over plaintiffs' remaining state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) (2006). The Court, however, granted both sets of plaintiffs leave to amend their equal protection and Title VI claims.*fn1 Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 742; Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 407. In addition, the Court noted that if an amended complaint survived a motion to dismiss, the Court would reconsider its ruling as to the pendent state law claims. Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 742; Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 407.

Plaintiffs have since filed amended complaints alleging that the City of New York, the Department of Buildings of the City of New York, HPD (collectively, "the City"), and the New York City Housing Partnership violated their right to equal protection under the law. (See Assoko Am. Compl. ¶¶ 86-96; Seabrook Am. Compl. ¶¶ 70-82.) In addition, both sets of plaintiffs allege that all of the defendants listed in their respective complaints have discriminated against them in violation of Title VI. (See Assoko Am. Compl. ¶¶ 126-133; Seabrook Am. Compl. ¶¶ 112-122.) Various defendants, including the City and Danois Architects,*fn2 have filed motions to dismiss the amended complaints. Although certain defendants have not filed motions to dismiss, the Court elects to conduct a plenary review of the complaints. See Aetna Cas. And Sur. Co. v. Aniero Concrete Co., 404 F.3d 566, 591 (2d Cir. 2005) (noting that "district court may dismiss a complaint sua sponte, for failure to state a claim, as to non-moving defendants") (citing Wachtler v. County of Herkimer, 35 F.3d 77, 82 (2d Cir. 1994)).*fn3 As the Court finds that the allegations in each amended complaint are insufficient to state either equal protection or Title VI claims against any of the defendants, the complaints are dismissed.

II. DISCUSSION

The Court's analysis of the amended complaints focuses on the deficiencies identified in the original complaints. In this analysis, the Court applies the generally applicable standards for analyzing a motion to dismiss. Specifically, the factual allegations in the complaint will be taken as true, and all reasonable inferences will drawn in plaintiff's favor. ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007). The complaint's factual allegations, however, "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). This "flexible 'plausibility standard[]' . . . obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible." Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007). If plaintiffs "have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint[s] must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

A. Equal Protection Claims

1. Plaintiffs' Claims of Maltreatment

The Court first turns to whether the amended complaints adequately plead that each plaintiff named herein was mistreated by the City or the New York City Housing Partnership. The Court dismissed the original Seabrook and Assoko complaints in part because the plaintiffs "fail[ed] to specifically identify what actions defendants wrongfully took or neglected to take with respect to each individual plaintiff." Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 735; Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 401. Specifically, the Court held that because neither the Seabrook nor the Assoko action was a class action, general allegations about the harm that "owners" or "plaintiffs" suffered were inadequate:

To the extent the equal protection claim is based on the wrongful issuance of a [Certificate], or the derivative failure to conduct proper inspections prior to the issuance of the [Certificate], individual plaintiffs have not adequately alleged such conduct. While each plaintiff lists defects in his or her own property, they do not allege, as they must, that such defects existed at the time of the inspection and issuance of the [Certificate] and should have precluded the issuance of the [Certificate] in each instance. Assoko, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 735 (emphasis added and citations omitted); see also Seabrook, 509 F. Supp. 2d at 401 (same). Thus, each plaintiff was required to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.