NYC Public Housing Evicting Residents for Family Members’ Drug Arrests

By Aura Bogado Jun 02, 2015

Over at City Limits, Batya Ungar-Sargon writes about the effects of the New York City Housing Authority’s trespass policy. In it, NYCHA stipulates that its strategy “seeks to combat … drug dealing and drug-related crime, and thereby protect residents in the City’s public housing, by denying access to persons arrested for felony drug sales.” The policy, as Ungar-Sargon points out, pivots on the arrest and not the conviction of any person in question.

But it doesn’t stop there. NYCHA stipulates that residents whose loved ones have been arrested on suspicion of selling drugs, including marijuana, can be evicted. In a bid to stop evictions, residents fight against NYCHA’s lawyers—sometimes representing themselves without the legal counsel they’re entitled to have. They essentially agreeing to cut contact with loved ones right as they’re dealing with the hardship of a felony arrest.

Take the case of the Baruch Houses’ Davis and Venable family, chronicled by Ungar-Sargon, whose son was arrested for smoking weed on a basketball court:

Davon’s exclusion was hard on Smith and her family. Venable is disabled and a veteran, and Smith was upset that Davon couldn’t visit his sick father. She was upset that Davon couldn’t drop off her grandson for the weekend. She now had to arrange to meet him at another location. "We shouldn’t have to do that!" she says. "He should be able to come here, spend time with his father, see how his father is doing, have Sunday dinner with us, spend Christmas day with us. We can’t do none of that."

And then, things got worse. On December 3, with his exhausted son asleep in the apartment, Venable heard a knock on the door and thought it was a food delivery. He opened the door to find himself facing investigators from NYCHA. Davon Venable was found in the apartment, "after the residents mislead [sic] inspectors to his identity," according to a statement from NYCHA.

Davis and Venable are now facing eviction before a hearing officer next month.

The vast majority of exclusion agreements between residents and NYCHA, writes Ungar-Sargon, are done by a process called "stipulation" instead of through an impartial hearing. Some advocates are fighting to make the process more transparent.

You can read Ungar-Sargon’s full article, which first appeared in City and State, over at City Limits