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Jones v. City of New York

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 8, 2013



PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Frederick Jones, proceeding pro se, brings claims against the City of New York (the "City") and Allen Affordable HDFC ("Allen"), under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 ("URA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4601 et seq., the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The City moves for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the City's motion is granted. Jones's claims against Allen, which has not appeared in this case, are dismissed sua sponte.

I. Background[1]

A. Factual Background

This is the latest in a series of lawsuits, all arising out of the same housing dispute, brought by Jones against various defendants. See Jones v. U.S. Dep't of Hous. & Urban Dev. ("Jones II"), No. 11 Civ. 846 (RJD)(JMA), 2012 WL 1940845, at *1 n.2 (E.D.N.Y. May 29, 2012) (summarizing Jones's various lawsuits in this District, the Eastern District of New York, and New York state courts); see also Georges Decl., Ex. P-U.

Jones was, until 2012, a resident of a rent-stabilized apartment at 107-05 Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, New York (the "Building"). Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. In 2001, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") selected the Building for its Neighborhood Redevelopment Program (the "NRP"), meaning that the Building would be conveyed to a developer for rehabilitation and development as affordable rental housing. Georges Decl. Ex. B-C. On October 19, 2000, residents were notified of the possibility of the Building's placement in NRP, and on November 5, 2001, residents were notified that the Building had been selected for inclusion in the NRP. Georges Decl. Ex. B-C.

The NRP is funded by the City and the federal government and from the proceeds of sales of federal low income housing tax credits. Def. 56.1 ¶ 2. When a building is placed in the NRP, existing tenants are relocated while construction proceeds; that relocation, however, is temporary. Tenants are entitled to return to renovated apartments within their building after the renovations are complete. Id. ¶¶ 3-4 (citing Georges Decl. Ex. E); see also N.Y.C. Rules & Regs. §§ 30-01 et seq. By December 14, 2005, all of the Building's residents, except for Jones, had been successfully relocated. Georges Decl. Ex. E. In 2006, the City sold the Building to Allen, a community-based not-for-profit organization, which took over as the developer pursuant to the NRP. Def. 56.1 ¶ 7 (citing Georges Decl. Ex. D).

Between 2006 and 2012, the condition of the Building deteriorated. On January 11, 2012, the New York Department of Buildings ("DOB") inspected the Building at the request of the Fire Department, due to a major water leak. Georges Decl. Ex. I. The DOB inspector observed that: a section of the floor was open on the first floor of the Building; the ceilings were missing in areas due to water damage; black mold was present throughout the Building; and three inches of stagnant water rested on the cellar floor. Id. Ex. F. As a result, the DOB issued to Allen a notice of violation for failure to maintain the Building in compliance with City regulations and directed Allen to seal the building immediately and repair the defects. Id. On January 12, 2012, the DOB issued an Emergency Declaration to the same effect. Id. Ex. G. On January 20, 2012, the DOB inspected the Building again and found structural deficiencies rendering it unsafe for occupation. Id. Ex. I. On that date, the DOB placed a vacate order on the Building, prohibiting reentry until the hazardous conditions are repaired. Id. At the time, Jones remained the sole occupant of the Building. Def. 56.1 ¶ 19.

When tenants of a privately owned building are displaced by a vacate order, HPD is responsible for providing relocation services for the displaced tenants. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 26-301(1)(a)(v). HPD's Emergency Housing Services Bureau ("EHS") provides such services for relocated individuals ("relocatees"). Def. 56.1 ¶ 22. EHS offers relocatees temporary shelter; helps them submit applications to the City Housing Authority ("NYCHA"); pays the cost of the relocatee's temporary shelter up to $12 per day; and refers the relocatee to at least three "Standard Apartments, " which meet certain criteria for habitability. Id. ¶¶ 22-27; see generally 28 N.Y.C. Rules & Regs. § 18-01 (providing for these services). However, if the relocatee unjustly refuses three Standard Apartments, his temporary shelter benefits may be terminated upon notice and hearing. See id. § 18-01(g).

After the vacate order was placed on the Building, Jones registered for shelter and location assistance. See Crumpton Decl. ¶ 7. On January 31, 2012, he was transferred to a shelter at the Queens YMCA. Id. [2] On February 14, 2012, Jones met with EHS staff, who gave him the opportunity to complete applications for relocation assistance; Jones refused to complete the applications, stating that doing so would interfere with his rights to return to the Building. Id. ¶ 8. On July 5, 2012, Jones again met with EHS staff and refused to complete applications for relocation assistance. Id. ¶ 9. In October 2012, Jones twice met with EHS staff, refused to complete applications for relocation assistance, and was informed that his continued refusal could result in the termination of his shelter benefits. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. On October 24, 2012, Jones requested that he be referred for a termination hearing. Id. ¶ 12. On February 4, 2013, a hearing was held to determine whether to terminate Jones's shelter and relocation benefits based on his continued refusal to seek replacement housing. Id. ¶ 13. During that hearing, Jones finally completed the applications for relocation assistance. Id. On February 21, 2013, the termination hearing resumed. Jones was again offered apartments for temporary relocation and again refused. Id. ¶ 15. At the hearing, Jones indicated that he would not be interested in other apartments that became available. Id.

In a letter dated April 27, 2013, Jones informed the Court that his shelter benefits had been terminated. See Dkt. 17. Jones's letter attaches a copy of the hearing officer's summary of the February 4 and 21, 2013 proceedings and the hearing officer's findings of fact; however, that summary does not recite a decision as to Jones's benefits. See id. at 4-10. The summary is dated April 22, 2013. Id. at 10.

On February 1, 2012, in a separate proceeding in housing court, Allen offered Jones temporary relocation in three separate buildings and offered Jones a rent-stabilized lease to return to his apartment in the Building once renovations are complete. Georges Decl. Ex. K. Jones refused, and the housing court judge dismissed the case. Id. On February 15, 2013, Allen sent Jones a letter offering him two new apartments; he did not respond. Crumpton Decl. ¶ 14.

Allen is currently in the process of selling the Building to MHANY Management Inc., which will take over responsibility for redevelopment of the Building under the NRP. Def. 56.1 ¶ 47. MHANY is in the process of securing the necessary funds for the rehabilitation, and has kept tenants, including Jones, apprised on the status of the redevelopment. See id. ¶¶ 48-56 (citing Georges Decl. Ex. M-N). At a July 24, 2012 meeting, MHANY informed tenants of the Building that rehabilitation would begin in December 2012 and would likely be completed by December 2013, and that they would be entitled to return to the building after the rehabilitation was completed. Georges Decl. Ex. M. On August 10, 2012, ...

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