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Wilson v. Wilder Balter Partners, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 17, 2015

VALERIE WILSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
WILDER BALTER PARTNERS, INC., et al., Defendants.

Valerie Wilson, Ettawanda Wilson, White Plains, NY, Pro Se Plaintiff.

Joshua E. Kimerling, Esq., Cuddy & Feder, LLP, New York, NY, Thomas Aquinas Cunnane, Esq., Cuddy & Feder, LLP, White Plains, NY, Counsel for Defendants.


KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiffs Valerie Wilson and Ettawanda Wilson (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed the instant Complaint against Wilder Balter Partners, Inc. ("Wilder Balter Partners"), Angela Grullon ("Grullon"), Catherine Peagler ("Peagler"), and Juan Gonzalez ("Juan Gonzalez") (collectively "Defendants"), alleging that Defendants engaged in discriminatory practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. (the "FHA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (the "Rehabilitation Act"), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (the "ADA"), and Article 15 of the New York State Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law § 290, et seq. ("NYHRL"). ( See Second Am. Compl. ("SAC") (Dkt. No. 26).) Before the Court is Defendants' Motion To Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ( See Mot. To Dismiss ("Mot.") (Dkt. No. 30).) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint and are taken as true for the purposes of resolving the instant Motion. Plaintiffs are African-American residents in a one-bedroom apartment at Battle Hill House Apartments ("Battle Hill") in White Plains, New York. ( See SAC at 1, ¶¶ 2, 20.) Valerie Wilson is Ettawanda Wilson's daughter and live-in aide. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs allege that even though Ettawanda Wilson's "name was the next and only [name] on [the] waiting list for a two[-]bedroom" apartment at Battle Hill, Defendants denied her the two[-]bedroom apartment that she wanted-Unit 405-by discriminating against her or Valerie Wilson on the basis of their race and/or Ettawanda Wilson's disability. ( Id. ¶¶ 1-3, 5.)

Plaintiffs "inform[ed] the management office in writing of [their] need for a two[-]bedroom [apartment], " on January 26, 2013, and Grullon, the property manager, advised Valerie Wilson that she was waiting for the approval of Peagler, the regional property manager. ( Id. at ¶¶ 7, 15; SAC Ex. 1, at unnumbered 1.) In the meantime, Grullon "continued showing [Unit 405]... to prospective tenants, including [Grullon's] own father." (SAC ¶ 8.) Moreover, Juan Gonzalez "beg[a]n frequenting the [Unit, ] presumably to prepare the apartment for the next tenants." ( Id. ¶ 9.) Valerie Wilson informed Grullon that she "tried to communicate with... Peagler, but when [she] asked for her business card in [the] hope[] [that she] could reach out to [Peagler] by email, [Peagler] was extremely brash and responded, [n]o!'" ( Id. ¶ 12.) Grullon informed Valerie Wilson that Peagler "said that [Ettawanda Wilson] is not getting that apartment, " ( id. ¶ 13), and Peagler asked Grullon to "call another woman to try to lease the apartment to her, " ( id. ¶ 14). Plaintiffs allege that Grullon and Peagler "both demonstrated their clear intent of [ensuring] [Ettawanda] Wilson was not even being considered" for the two-bedroom apartment. ( Id. ¶ 15 (internal quotation marks omitted).) Grullon also informed Valerie Wilson that neither the "inquiry list" nor the "waiting list" existed. ( Id. ¶ 19.)

At Valerie Wilson's request, and notwithstanding Grullon's apparent intent not to offer the apartment to Ettawanda Wilson, Grullon accompanied Valerie Wilson to view Unit 405. ( Id. ¶ 22.) Valerie Wilson informed Grullon that "[her] mother would like the unit... [and]... told her not to install carpet until [her] mother was allowed to see the apartment." ( Id. ¶ 24.) Specifically, Valerie Wilson told Grullon that her mother would not want carpet because "bed[] bugs thrive in carpet." ( Id. ¶ 27.) Grullon responded that carpet had already been ordered, and "was mandatory." ( Id. ¶¶ 24, 26.) Plaintiffs claim that the "decision to install the carpet clearly indicated the decision had already been made to violate [Ettawanda] Wilson's Fair Housing Act rights, " and that Plaintiffs were denied the "same rights as the current Caucasian family and the prior Asian family... in... apartment # 404... [because] [b]oth [families] were allowed not to have carpet forced upon them prior to tenancy and both were never... forced to have carpet after they accepted [the] tenancy." ( Id. ¶¶ 30-33 (second, third, and fourth emphasis omitted).)

Plaintiffs also allege that Grullon informed Valerie Wilson that a woman was "trying to bribe her way in[to] the building" and that the "woman was able to unlawfully lease [a one-bedroom unit, Unit 103] for herself and a senior woman who appear[ed] to be her disabled mother." ( Id. ¶¶ 37, 41.) Plaintiffs claim that the former tenants in Unit 103 moved into Unit 405 "just so [Ettawanda] Wilson would not be able to rent [Unit 405]." ( Id. ¶ 44.)

Next, Plaintiffs allege that "[m]anagement sent a person to serve a document to [Ettawanda] Wilson concerning her recertification and [the person] told her, The building can evict you for this.'" ( Id. ¶ 45 (internal quotation marks omitted).) The person advised Ettawanda Wilson that she needed to complete her recertification requirements, and Ettawanda Wilson told "him she had done so already, and until this day states she ha[s] done it." ( Id. ¶ 47 (internal parenthesis omitted).) Plaintiffs claim that Wilder Balter Partners "serve[d] a fictitious court document to scare, intimidate, and coerce [Ettawanda Wilson] into doing what they wanted her to do[, ]" ( id. ¶ 71), and the legal proceeding against Ettawanda Wilson "was completely fabricated, " ( id. ¶¶ 72-73), and without regard to "the physical consequence such a fabrication could have on a chronically disabled senior tenant, " ( id. ¶ 74). By letter dated July 8, 2012, Valerie Wilson sent a "response to the served document" to Wilder Balter Partners. (SAC ¶ 57; SAC Ex. 3, at unnumbered 1.)

The Second Amended Complaint also alleges that Defendants sent Plaintiffs letters that "represented more harassment, " and point the Court to Exhibit 4. (SAC ¶ 60.) Exhibit 4, appended to the Complaint, includes one letter dated March 12, 2012 from property manager Mairim Gonzalez ("Gonzalez") informing Ettawanda Wilson that her "apartment is due to be painted, " and requesting that Ettawanda Wilson indicate whether or not she would like her apartment painted by March 19, 2012. (SAC Ex. 4, at unnumbered 1.) The next letter in Exhibit 4 is dated March 27, 2012 from Gonzalez to Ettawanda Wilson stating that "[y]ou are receiving this notice again as your apartment is due to be painted and we have not heard from you." ( Id. at unnumbered 2.) The third letter in Exhibit 4 is dated April 6, 2012 from Gonzalez to Ettawanda Wilson explaining that "as a result of you cancelling our scheduled unit inspection on April 3, 2012, your apartment is still due [for an inspection], " and requesting that Ettawanda Wilson "[p]lease arrange a new inspection date with management as soon as possible." ( Id. at unnumbered 3.) In a letter dated April 23, 2012, also included in Exhibit 4, Gonzalez informed Ettawanda Wilson that:

It has come to management's attention that you do not wish to be included in the 2012 painting cycle. Please be advised that due to the strict rules and regulations set forth by HUD, an inspection of your unit must be conducted to avoid any compliance issues. If your apartment is found to be in good condition, management will honor your wishes and not include you in the painting cycle. However, should your apartment need painting, you will automatically be added to the cycle list.... As a result of the upcoming cycle, your apartment must be available for inspection tomorrow, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. I apologize in advance for the short notice, however, the response time of many residents was severely delayed, thus affecting the overall schedule.

( Id. at unnumbered 4.) The last letter in Exhibit 4 is dated May 1, 2012 from the regional manager, Cristina Clark, to Ettawanda Wilson. ( Id. at unnumbered 5.) The letter advises that "management is in receipt of your letter, dated April 24, 2012, alleging continued intimidation and discrimination against you on several pending items." ( Id. ) Clark explained that "[i]t [was] management's responsibility to execute re-certifications and projects in a timely fashion.... [and] [a]s a result of non compliance with the Section 8 regulations, [m]anagement has been forced to contact you in writing several times on various issues due to your lack of response." ( Id. ) The letter includes a timeline as to four pending items: (1) recertification; (2) 50059 form; (3) Painting cycle; and (4) Unit inspection. ( Id. ) Clark also states that "[i]n addition to the communications in writing, [m]anagement verbally relayed to you the need for the pending recertification unit inspection and painting cycle unit inspections when you signed your HUD 50059 form on April 17, 2012." ( Id. )

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants harassed them by "demand[ing]... access to complete [a] dual inspection immediately." (SAC ¶¶ 61-63.) Plaintiffs claim that "every single violation" that prompted the dual inspection "ha[d] not been addresse[d]... demonstrating it was never about the HUD inspection[, ] [but, rather]... just abuse and harassment." ( Id. ¶ 64 (emphasis omitted).) Plaintiffs state that they had never been required to participate in an inspection before, and that HUD inspections were not "done for everyone." ( Id. ¶¶ 66-67.) Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that "Management... had the... exterminator... knock[] on the door and once inside he[] [would] first make small talk and [then] ask" if Valerie Wilson lived in the apartment. ( Id. ¶ 68.) Valerie Wilson claims that her health was affected by the harassment, and Ettawanda Wilson "decided that if Wilder Balter Partners... continu[ed] to treat her horribly... she did not want the apartment." ( Id. ¶¶ 77-79 (emphasis omitted).)

Valerie Wilson visited a HUD representative to discuss several issues, "including the bed bug policy, " and the "fact that management was made aware [that Plaintiffs] did not want a paint job" for their current apartment. ( Id. ¶¶ 48-52.) Valerie Wilson also showed the representative from HUD the document that Ettawanda Wilson had received at her apartment, ( id. ¶ 53), and notified him that she lived with her mother as a live-in aide, ( id. ¶ 56).

On February 1, 2013, Valerie Wilson sent an inquiry to Jason O'Neill ("O'Neill"), the HUD project manager for Battle Hill, informing him that she was aware of her "rights available via the courts, " and that Peagler was ignoring Plaintiffs' "reasonable accommodation request" to rent the two-bedroom apartment. ( Id. ¶¶ 82, 84, 86.) O'Neill responded by email on February 21, 2013, explaining that the management at Battle Hill had informed him that they had contacted Ettawanda Wilson and outlined the steps that she needed to take to have Valerie Wilson added as an additional tenant to the lease, or as a live-in aid. ( Id. ¶ 92.) The instant Complaint references such a letter from Peagler dated February 5, 2013, and Plaintiffs attached the letter to the Complaint. ( Id. ¶ 96.) Valerie Wilson has not requested to be a tenant on her mother's lease, ( id. ¶¶ 97, 104), and she "do[es] not believe caretakers are required to be on the lease nor required to recertify because income from a live[-]in aid is excluded from the households [sic] ...

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