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Weaver v. The New York City Housing Authority

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 20, 2019

GEORGE WEAVER; VERA NASEVA; LUZ CONCEPCIÓN; LUIS FLORES, each on their own behalf and collectively on behalf of all others similarly-situated; FIGHT FOR NYCHA, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY; GREGORY RUSS, Chair and CEO; THE CITY OF NEW YORK; BILL DE BLASIO, Mayor of the City of New York; GALE BREWER, individually as President of the Borough of Manhattan and acting, collectively, by and through her aide, BRIAN LEWIS, Defendants.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          COLLEEN MCMAHON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Fight for NYCHA and Plaintiffs Weaver, Naseva, Concepcion, and Flores bring this action pro se. They bring this action on their own behalf and “on behalf of all others similarly-situated.” (ECF 11, at 1.) They describe their operative pleading as an “Amended Class Action Complaint.” (Id.) By order dated November 20, 2019, the Court directed Plaintiffs Weaver, Naseva, Concepcion, and Halasa, within thirty days, to each complete, sign, and submit a separate in forma pauperis (“IFP”) application. In the alternative, Plaintiffs could pay the relevant fees to bring this action.

         On November 25, 2019, Fight for NYCHA and Plaintiffs Weaver, Naseva, and Concepcion each filed an IFP application.[1] Two days later, Plaintiff Flores filed a letter in which he asserted that Fight for NYCHA “is the correct plaintiff, not its coordinating committee members. This means[] Marni Halasa and Louis Flores, as coordinating committee members[, ] should not be filing IFP applications on behalf of Fight for NYCHA.” (ECF 10). The letter also noted that Plaintiff Flores “is a correct co-plaintiff, as a result, he has filed a personal IFP application.” (Id.)

         On December 2, 2019, Plaintiffs Weaver, Naseva, Concecpion, Flores, and Fight for NYCHA filed an amended complaint. On that same date, Plaintiffs filed an amended application for an order to show cause for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order (ECF 12), and Plaintiff Flores filed a declaration in support of that application (ECF 13).

         On December 6, 2019, the Court granted the IFP applications of Plaintiffs Flores, Weaver, Naseva, and Concepcion.

         On December 11, 2019, Halasa filed a declaration. (ECF 18.) Five days later, Plaintiff Flores filed a letter in which he makes additional disclosures with regard to his IFP application and seems to request an extension of time for Halasa to comply with the Court's November 20, 2019 order. (ECF 19.)[2]

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court dismisses this action.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must dismiss an IFP complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998). The Court must also dismiss a complaint when the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

         While the law mandates dismissal on any of these grounds, the Court is obliged to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the “strongest [claims] that they suggest, ” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted, emphasis in original). But the “special solicitude” in pro se cases, id. at 475 (citation omitted), has its limits - to state a claim, pro se pleadings still must comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a complaint to make a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.

         The United States Supreme Court has held that under Rule 8, a complaint must include enough facts to state a claim for relief “that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads enough factual detail to allow the Court to draw the inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. In reviewing the complaint, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But it does not have to accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, ” which are essentially just legal conclusions. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). After separating legal conclusions from well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court must determine whether those facts make it plausible - not merely possible - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 678-79.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated - they seek to proceed as a class action. They assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(j)(3) and 24 C.F.R. § 5.703(c), (d)(1), and (g), as well as under state law. They also assert that the defendants have violated their federal constitutional rights. They seek injunctive, declaratory, and other relief.

         Plaintiffs Weaver, Naseva, and Concepcion allege that they are residents of apartment buildings in Manhattan that are owned and operated by the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”), a public housing authority created by state law. Plaintiff Flores alleges that he has applied for NYCHA housing. Fight for NYCHA alleges that it “is an unincorporated association of tenants, activists, and artists, who oppose any privatization of public housing assets.” (ECF 11, at 8.) Fight for NYCHA also alleges that it is “managed by its Co[o]rdinating Committee” and that Flores and Halasa are the members of that committee. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs sue (1) NYCHA, (2) Gregory Russ, NYCHA's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, (3) the City of New York, (4) Bill De Blasio, the Mayor of the City of New York, (5) Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, and (6) Brian Lewis, Brewer's aide. They allege that an unspecified previous settlement agreement regarding NYCHA funding “is inadequate to provide NYCHA residents with decent and safe housing.” (Id. at 12.) They oppose Mayor De Blasio's alleged plans to privatize one third of NYCHA housing, rezone public housing campuses, demolish public housing buildings, and sell the air rights of public housing buildings. They assert that Mayor De Blasio has created the Mayor's NYCHA Working Group (“Working Group”) “to counteract” their protests of his plans and to advance his plans. (Id. at 14.) And they state that “[t]here was no democratic process followed for the formation of” the Working Group. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs allege that Working Group meetings have been kept secret and have taken place in unknown locations that have been closed to NYCHA residents and the public at large. They assert that “[b]y conducting closed-door [Working Group] meetings . . . Defendants and other elected Government officials and/or their representatives have deprived Plaintiffs . . . from having any participation in discussions about the possible disposition and development of public housing assets.” (Id. at 15.) Plaintiffs also assert that the Working Group has instituted a “gag rule, ” which prevents its members from speaking publicly about the Working Group meetings. (Id.) They further assert ...


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