Between April 10 and May 17, the Skush-O’Briens were supposed to have the last violation — the sloping (and sinking) hallway floor — remedied. To my satisfaction. They didn’t do a damn thing. I suspected they wouldn’t because unlike the other violations, repairing this would cost money.
So I returned to Housing Court on May 17 at 9:30. This time, I brought the 2010 Department of Buildings violation for those same sloping floors carrying its $2500 fine. Just in case I needed it.
I didn’t: nobody showed up. Not Chaz, not his lawyer Larry. So what happened? At the instruction of the HPD lawyer, I waited. With my two newspapers. (I’ve told you to bring reading materials, right?) After an hour and a half, most of the other cases had been taken care of and I’d finished both the Daily News and the NYT. I was one of the few respondents remaining.
Several times the court deputy called out the name of Larry’s law firm. No response. After two hours, the court deputy even went out into the hallway and called out the name. No response.
Thereupon, I was conducted to the witness stand for what is called an inquest. (An addicted reader of English mystery novels, I was a bit startled: to me, an inquest is what happens after a murder, but hey.) There was a microphone attached to the witness stand. Judge Wendt asked me questions, primarily focused on every violation that had been certified. He read each violation and asked if it had been taken care of. I answered “yes,” into the mike. Except for those sloping floors. No, that had not been taken care of.
After I was inquested, I sat back down and waited for The Document: it is called Default Order and Judgment After Inquest. It states that I, the petitioner, appeared pro se, with the co-respondent Department of Housing Preservation and Development of the City of New York. It further states that “upon the testimony of the Petitioner,” it was found that the Little Crooked House Tenants Corp had been served with a copy of the 2/28/12 Court Order and that the Respondent had failed to correct one violation within the time period and that “as a result, civil penalties in the amount of $870 dollars have accrued.”
It directs the HPD to “recover of Respondent(s) the amount of eight hundred and seventy dollars, and said judgment shall be a lien against” the building. Which already leans, but I’ve told you that.
It further notes that the Order and Notice of Violations dated 2-28-12 shall remain in effect. I didn’t have to serve the Default Order myself; HPD took care of it.
Several things to point out here. First, Housing Court is serious: if a landlord fails to fix certified violations, Housing Court lays fines. Second, as my lawyer in the larger lawsuit against the Skush-O’Briens informed me, the co-op board’s no-show in court was yet another breach of fiduciary trust and responsibility on the part of the defendant board of directors.
Chaz’s lawyer twice tried to bring the larger lawsuit into Housing Court and twice was bypassed by the judges. Yet, by not showing up to respond to this remaining violation, the Skush-O’Briens and lawyer had managed to bring the Housing Court case into my Supreme Court case.
Thank you, Chaz and Larry.
Next: The next step in Housing Court (yes, we can and must keep this going).