United States District Court, E.D. New York
C.W.; D.S.; M.C.; A.H.; S.G.; EX.; S.A.; F.E.; I.F.; G.B.; and D.G., by his next friend, THEO LIEBMANN; and other similarly situated youth, Plaintiffs,
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant.
LEGAL AID SOCIETY By: Judith Goldiner, Kimberly Forte, Lisa
Freeman, Theresa B. Moser and Beth Hofmeister Attorneys for
PATTERSON BELKNAP WEBB & TYLER LLP By: Lisa E. Geary,
Jason S. Gould, Muhammad U. Faridi, Catherine Geddes, Jane
Metcalf and Alanna Small Attorneys for Plaintiffs
ZACHARY W. CARTER By: Eric B. Porter, Assistant Corporation
Counsel Attorneys for Defendant
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STERLING JOHNSON, JR., U.S.D.J.
all but one of whom were 17- or 18-year-old homeless youths
at the time this action was commenced, bring this class
action against defendant City of New York
("Defendant" or "City"), alleging that
the City violated their rights under federal law, the New
York City Human Rights Law, and a state statute-the Runaway
and Homeless Youth Act of 1978, N.Y. Exec. Law § 532
et seq. (the "RHYA")-by failing to
provide, or ejecting them from, youth shelters. Defendant now
moves for partial summary judgment, arguing that the RHYA
does not obligate the City to provide youth-specific shelter
to any 18- to 20-year-old homeless youth who seeks it. For
the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion for partial
summary judgment is granted and Plaintiffs' RHYA claim is
dismissed with respect to all plaintiffs who were age 18 or
older at the time this action was commenced.
a civil rights action commenced by homeless individuals, aged
17 to 20, who, at some juncture, have been denied access to a
youth shelter and/or ejected from such a shelter. The Amended
Complaint alleges that "[b]y denying youth shelter to
homeless youth ages 16 to 20 and ejecting them from shelter
to the street without fair process, " the City has
violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the RHYA, the
Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of
1973, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Amended
Complaint, ¶ 16. Plaintiffs principally seek injunctive
relief, including an order requiring the City to provide
youth shelter and services to any homeless youth aged 16 to
20 who seeks them and prohibiting the City from denying youth
shelter or services to any homeless youth aged 16 to 20 or
ejecting such youth from a shelter without fair process,
including notice and an opportunity to be heard.
instant motion pertains solely to Plaintiffs' claim that
the City has violated the RHYA. According to the Amended
Complaint, the RHYA "envisions a straightforward system
in which homeless youth have unfettered access to youth
shelter and services." Amended Complaint, ¶ 31. The
pleading alleges that section 532-b of the New York Executive
Law entitles "any homeless youth" to "crisis
shelter, which includes a bed and services such as food,
clothing, medical care, education, and counseling."
Id. The pleading further alleges that sections 532-a
and 532-d provide that homeless youth who cannot find
alternative living arrangements during their stay at the
crisis shelter "will move into transactional independent
living programs (TILs), " from which they "will
transition to independent living." Id.
Amended Complaint also alleges that the RHYA "does not
permit the City to discharge runaway or homeless youth from
shelter back to the street under any circumstance."
Id., ¶ 38. With respect to runaway youth, the
pleading implies that N.Y. Exec. Law § 532-b
"requires reunification with family, foster care
placement, or housing according to any other suitable plan
upon discharge from crisis shelter." Id. With
respect to homeless youth, the pleading alleges that sections
532-a and 532-d permit them "to remain in crisis shelter
until they secure a bed in a [transactional independent
living] program or find suitable shelter elsewhere."
now moves for partial summary judgment, arguing that the RHYA
and related regulations "do not mandate the creation of
youth-specific shelters, or impose any obligations on
municipalities ...." Memorandum of Law in Support of
Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
("Defendant's Memo"), p. 1. In particular,
Defendant urges the Court to reject Plaintiffs' claim
that the RHYA obligates the City to provide youth-specific
shelter to 18- to 20-year-old homeless youth, noting that the
City already provides "generalized shelter" to
these individuals. The motion expressly declines to address
the issue of whether 16- to 17-year-old runaway and homeless
youth are entitled to youth-specific shelter, noting that the
City's "current policy, formalized following the
initiation of this action, requires that youth-specific
shelter programs receiving City funding must provide a
shelter bed to any 16 or 17 year-old homeless or runaway
youth who seeks one" or "refer the youth to another
youth-specific program with an available bed."
Id., p. 3, n. 4.
principally argues that "Plaintiffs' interpretation
of the RHYA and Regulations is clearly at odds with their
plain language ...." Defendant's Memo, p. 7.
Defendant notes that N.Y. Exec. Law § 532-b imposes
certain duties on "approved runaway programs, " not
on the City or any other municipality. Defendant's Memo,
p. 8. Defendant contends that, in New York City, approved
runaway programs are operated exclusively by "private
not-for-profit entit[ies], " approved by the New York
State Office of Children and Family Services (the
"OCFS"). Id., p. 9. According to
Defendant, section "532-b merely dictates how [an]
individual youth-specific shelter program must operate once
... certified by OCFS." Id.
concedes that subsection 2 of section 420 of the New York
Executive Law, which was enacted at the same time as the
RHYA, requires all municipalities to develop a
"comprehensive plan to offer youth development programs,
" and requires those municipalities that seek partial
reimbursement for services to runaway and homeless youth to
include a "runaway and homeless youth plan" as part
of that comprehensive plan. Id., p. 15. However,
Defendant maintains that these provisions "merely set[ ]
up a framework within which a municipality, in order to
obtain partial reimbursement from the State of the funds it
chooses to provide to runaway and homeless youth programs,
must provide to OCFS a plan describing how such funds were or
will be used to provide services to such youth."
Id., p. 17. Defendant argues that these provisions
do not require a municipality, as a condition of receiving
state reimbursement, to "establish and fund an expansive
and infinitely expandable system of youth-specific shelters
sufficient to meet whatever level of demand for such shelters
arises among 18 to 20 year-olds at any time."
their Brief in Opposition to the City's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment ("Plaintiffs'
Opposition"), Plaintiffs contend that § 420 creates
an "opt-in framework" under which municipalities
that agree to accept state funds "must adhere to the
statute's mandate to supply shelter and services to
satisfy need." Plaintiffs' Opposition, pp. 10-11.
Plaintiffs do not point to a statutory provision creating
this "mandate, " but reason that "[i]t would
be irrational for the Legislature to set forth, in careful
detail, a remedial framework intended to address the needs of
runaway and homeless youth, only to allow participating
municipalities to shirk their responsibility to supply
adequate shelter to meet that need." Id., p.
11. Plaintiffs point to other statutes-such as the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
("IDEA") and the Social Security Act
("SSA")-which require a state that opts to accept
federal funding to provide certain benefits to all eligible
beneficiaries. Id., p. 12. Plaintiffs assert that
the provisions relating to "approved runaway
programs" serve to "permit[ ] the City to delegate
the operation of youth shelters, but not the
obligations." Id., p. 14 (emphasis omitted).
Opposition contends that the legislative history of the RHYA
supports the view that the statute "imposes an
obligation to provide youth shelter." Id., p.
9. Plaintiffs quote from the Bill Memorandum authored by
Assemblyman Lasher, the lead sponsor of the legislation,
which stated: "This legislation will provide a broad
basis for each county in the State to determine the
particular nature of its own runaway and homeless youth
problem and receive State aid to meet it." Id.,
p. 8. Plaintiffs reason that this statement-coupled with the
Governor's observation that "approved runaway
programs" have the "duty to ... help arrange for
the furnishing of necessary services"-mandates the
conclusion that the City, having accepted State aid, is
required "to rectify youth homelessness in the City
based on need." Id.
Summary Judgment Standard
moving for summary judgment has the burden of establishing
that there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In considering a
summary judgment motion, "the court's responsibility
is not to resolve disputed issues of fact but to assess
whether there are any factual issues to be tried, while
resolving ambiguities and drawing reasonable inferences
against the moving party." Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins.
Co.,804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). If the Court recognizes