The Real Deal New York

Brooklyn Housing Court benefits landlords, belittles tenants: report

December 14, 2011 09:56AM

The Brooklyn Housing Court’s disrepair gives “special privileges” to landlord attorneys and fosters “a culture of disrespect towards tenants,” according to a report from the New York Daily News. The News cited a recent report by nonprofit group Make the Road to New York, which is one of several agencies pushing to change the facility.

The groups met with Judge Jenn Fisher, who is in charge of housing courts citywide. Fisher said she is working to engineer some of the changes recommended by the group, including easier-to-read signs and better accommodations for tenants, but admitted budget restraints make change difficult.

The housing court, at 141 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn, exists in an aging facility that can’t accommodate the court’s caseload, the report said, and that lack of space ultimately benefits landlords. About 85 percent of landlords retain lawyers, while fewer than 10 percent of tenants have attorneys. Attorneys are given seating near judges, while those without lawyers must wait outside courtrooms. Should they fail to hear their name called they default on cases.

“Court is a place where people should be able to find justice — but tenants can’t at Brooklyn Housing Court,” said Hilary Klein, lead organizer of Make the Road to New York.

The building is owned by David Bistricer, who Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has called a slumlord, and the report suggests that the Brooklyn Housing Court must change facilities once the lease runs out in 2014. [NYDN]

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