On Tuesday, February 28, the court date written on my Order to Show Cause package, I went downtown to 111 Centre Street at 9 am. First, I went to the second floor, to MFC (My Favorite Clerk) at window 5. She went through my certified mail receipts. They didn’t show a time stamp. Between us, we figured out that 3 p.m. was approximately the time I mailed the certified letters.
At her direction I then went up to the 11th floor and entered the courtroom. The court deputy told me to go back out and look at the calendar posted outside the court: I needed to get the number of my case (the calendar order, not the index number). I did; the number was coincidentally and conveniently my house number. I gave it to the deputy, sat down and waited.
A young lawyer-type approached me and asked if I were me. Indeed, I was. He, whom I’ll call Larry, was there to represent the Little Crooked House Tenants Corp and its board, the defendants in my action against them. Larry asked if I wanted “to conference.” I told him I didn’t know; was that what we were supposed to do? I’d never been there before.
I was rescued from my bewilderment by Mark, one of the experienced HPD lawyers who are assigned to Housing Court. He was not representing me — he represented the building itself — but I understood that I could lean on his advice. He asked Larry if he would sign a consent order now, or did he want to see the judge.
Larry said, “This is part of an ongoing litigation–” and Mark cut him off mid-sentence, telling him other litigation was not relevant in Housing Court. The only litigation to be worked on was the Housing Court case. Larry looked a little rattled; it seemed he knew nothing about Housing Court.
Larry said that the violations were being taken care of and he had an affidavit from our building manager, Griggsby, stating this. I said, “No, the violations have not been taken care of.” Larry said, well, in that case he wanted to see the judge. So he, I and Mark sat down at a table in front of the judge’s bench.
The judge, Hon. Peter Wendt, bearded and smart, was witty and delightful. When Larry once again attempted to bring up my lawsuit against the Skush-O’Briens, the judge, too, cut him off. He then read through the complaint. “There are a lot of violations here,” he said, and differentiated between A (less serious) and B(more serious) violations. He then did a fast definition of Housing Court process for all of us.
“The violations are now being corrected,” said Larry, and Judge Wendt said, “So you shouldn’t have any problem signing a consent order.” Larry looked uncertain. The judge said, “I’m not signing off on doing the repairs myself, you know.”
We left the bench and returned to negotiate the next step with Mark. I consented to give access to a repair person to take care of the two certified violations in my own apartment. Larry said, “We agree to do the repairs by March 16,” but Mark said, rather crisply, “No, this is not a ‘by’ date; this is a ‘do’ date.”
Larry left the courtroom to get possible “do” dates. I sat down and resumed reading the New York Times. In a half hour, Larry returned with two dates, March 19th and 20th. I agreed to be available from 9 to 5, but was assured that if nobody came by 12, I was free to leave the apartment.
We all signed the Consent form. Then Judge Wendt signed the form.
Val, another HPD attorney, told me that the Consent form contained all the instructions, in case I needed to be reminded. And if the violations had not been corrected “to your approval” within 30 days, I should come back and resume the case.
I went home with the Consent form, sat down with my Filofax (yes, I don’t have a hand-held whatever) and counted off 30 days (including weekends). I wrote on the March 29 space, “All B repairs not done, go back to clerk 2d floor tomorrow.”
Next: What happened on Friday, March 30 (when all the B repairs were not done)