I forgot to suggest that before you file anything in Housing Court, you should take a look at the Department of Buildings site (under Sites of Interest, in the right column →). Or maybe I did tell you, but it bears repeating because of what happened when I was next in Housing Court.
Go into the DOB web site and run a check on your building, to see if the DOB has placed any violations on your house. Although Housing Preservation and Development and the DOB operate separately to define and fine violations, they do occasionally overlap. They did in the case of my building, as I’m about to tell you.
So before you fill out the petition to have an HPD inspector visit and certify violations, make sure that you have in hand any DOB violations; you will want to put any of them that correspond to Housing Maintenance Code onto your list.
In Part 7, I explained how I put my complaints back onto the Housing Court calendar for April 10 at 9:30. And so, on April 10, I went back to Housing Court.
To my surprise, Chaz Skush-O’Brien showed up, along with Larry, his lawyer. The three of us went up to the bar and talked to an HPD lawyer. Chaz had arrived with pictures on his cell phone of the work that had been done. I, in turn, agreed that certain items had been taken care of; now only two problems remained.
Chaz and Larry conceded that the sloping/sinking floor problem remained but was “minor” (it isn’t) and that they were “dealing with it, dealing with contractors.” There was a lot of verbiage about how it was being dealt with.
The HPD lawyer told me my options, one of which was just agreeing right then to an extension of time to repair the floor. I said “No.” Chaz said, “The problem has existed since we bought the building.” I said, “You didn’t buy the building,” and he had to correct himself. (I love moments like that.) But I was adamant about not agreeing to extend the time for repairs. So we sat down at the long table in front of the judge’s bench.
Judge Wendt was not there (I think he was on vacation), so we sat before Judge Gonzalez. New judge, same old: Larry decided to launch himself again into an accusation about how this was part of a continuing litigation with “Ms. Fein,” and what I was doing was just retaliation. I was thinking, “Huh?” Given that I was the one who sued them, what was I retaliating for? But I didn’t need to bring up how illogical this was, because Judge Gonzalez ignored it. (She didn’t, as had Judge Wendt, state that other litigation wasn’t relevant in Housing Court; she just passed right over it.)
Larry then said that the Skush-O’Briens were trying to rectify the problem but they didn’t know how complicated it was, it required investigation, and blah blah, and how long it would take blah blah. So they needed an extension but couldn’t promise when it could get done.
Judge Gonzalez and the HPD lawyer asked me whether I was agreeable to granting a further extension. I said, “No.” And then I explained why I was being so uncooperative: the DOB had issued a violation for the same problem in the summer of 2010, that the Skush-O’Briens had thus known about it for two years, that they had no responded to the DOB and that we had a $2500 DOB fine on that violation. So I wasn’t inclined to give them time to do anything, since they’d had two years already and hadn’t fixed it.
Triumph! Smoking gun! (I love this stuff, or did I already say that?)
Larry blustered, “This is the first we’ve heard about this violation!” that there had been hours of depositions! during which the subject had never come up! Chaz leaned over and whispered to him. Larry asked for a minute to consult with his client. Chaz then conceded that he had indeed known about the violation but had done nothing to cure it.
The judge then told me that she could start fines rolling but why not give them 30 days? I was reluctant, until she explained: if in thirty days they hadn’t fixed the problem, the fines would start rolling retroactive to February 28, when Judge Wendt had signed the Order to Show Cause.
“Oh,” I said. And then, graciously, I agreed to a 30 days extension.
And thus our next Housing Court date was set for May 17.
I went home and pulled the actual DOB violation out of my litigation file and stuck it into my Housing Court file, to brandish when I returned to court.
Next: What happened on May 17.