Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes

Outside, shuddering in the cold, they waited. For regulars, the ones flung repeatedly into this quizzical place, they knew it was going to be a long, sour wait, for the line looped back and wiggled around the corner and touched the Lane Bryant store. The Lane Bryant store usually meant upward of an hour’s wait.

This was the line to get into 141 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn, premises of Brooklyn Housing Court. Its business is deciding whether to evict people. It was this way in rain and howling wind and snow. Under the gray slab that was the sky, a gangly man slid down the line, barking out his spiel, offering cards for a free program to pay moving expenses, modest consolation if things went badly inside.

The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City

When Neri Carranza went to see the apartment on West 109th Street in Manhattan, she folded money into the pocket of her blue jacket, just in case she liked the place. This would be the first apartment she had ever looked at, the first time she could make a home of her own, paid for with the earnings from her first job, at a glass factory. And the apartment was exactly as her friend from church had described it: small but comfortable.

So on a freezing Sunday in 1956, Ms. Carranza, then 32, with a crown of black hair and a fierce desire for independence, moved into the narrow two-bedroom apartment. She made it her own, cleaning and decorating every Sunday, planting yellow roses and hot-pink geraniums in window boxes, painting the walls white when they needed a new coat. As landlords came and went, Ms. Carranza stayed, becoming a fixture in the largely Latino neighborhood.

Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation

The assault began shortly after a new owner bought the building at 25 Grove Street in June 2015. Surveillance cameras arrived first, pointed at the doors to rent-regulated apartments. Then came the construction workers, who gutted empty units and sent a dust cocktail of lead-based paint, brick and who knows what else throughout the building.

Worried, a pregnant woman and her husband left, dooming their apartment to the demolition derby. Violations were issued; violations were dismissed. And on a Friday morning in early August 2016, Temma Tainow, who had lived in the West Village building for 34 years, was jarred awake by what sounded like an explosion. She stumbled into her kitchen and screamed. A leg dangled from a hole punched through her ceiling.

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