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LL jailed & fined $151,750 for failure to make repai

Postby Anna » Thu Jan 06, 2005 11:14 pm

Featured in tomorrow's New York Law Journal:
Landlords Are Held in Criminal, Civil Contempt; DHPD Is Awarded $151,750 for Civil Penalties

exerpt:

Allen v. Rosenblatt,
Civil Court of the City of New York, New York County
Decided on December 22, 2004

OPINION OF THE COURT

Gerald Lebovits, J.

The Motion for Civil Penalties and Contempt
A hearing was held over four days in November and December 2004 on a motion by co-respondent Department of Housing Preservation and Development of the City of New York (DHPD) to hold respondents Stacy Rosenblatt, Peter Golia, and the 2649 Frederick Douglass Realty Corporation in criminal and civil contempt (Judiciary Law §§ 750 [A] [3] [criminal contempt] & 753 [A] [8] [civil contempt]; CPLR 5104 & NYC Admin [Housing Maintenance] Code [HMC] § 27-2124 [contempt in general]; Civ Ct Act § 110 [e] & Judiciary Law § 757 [authorizing Civil Court Housing Part judges to punish for contempts]) and to pay civil penalties under HMC § 27-2115. DHPD seeks monetary penalties and incarceration.
The broad issue before the court is whether Rosenblatt, Golia, and the corporation (collectively, the respondents) violated the Honorable Jerald B. Klein's order and notice of violation of August 5, 2003, directing the three of them to repair "the conditions listed in the DHPD vacate order dated 7/25/03 and the Dept. of Building [DOB] vacate order dated 7/23/03 . . . within 7 days from the date of the signing of this order, so that such vacate orders against the subject premises are removed." (Judge Klein's Order and Notice of August 5, 2003, page 1, attached to Order to Show Cause at Exhibit B.) But the court cannot adjudicate that broad issue. DHPD did not attach the DOB's vacate order to its order to show cause seeking penalties and contempt. Judge Klein's order, moreover, does not unequivocally require respondents to remove the vacate orders. Rather, his order directed respondents to correct conditions.
Accordingly, the limited issue before the court is whether respondents repaired "all those conditions listed in the DHPD vacate order dated 7/25/03," (Judge Klein's Order and Notice of August 5, 2003, page 2, attached to Order to Show Cause at Exhibit B), which Judge Klein "classified as 'C' violations." (Id.) The conditions in the DHPD vacate order are "1. Defective first means of egress, stairs case [sic] in danger of collapse; 2. Cascading water leak all stories public hall; 3. Exposed electrical wires; 4. Accumulation of construction rubbish throughout all stories public hall; 5. Illegal occupancy at cellar; 6. No boiler enclosure at cellar; 7. Defective heating system; 8. Obstruction of secondary means of egress, by rubbish at rear yard; 9. Defective and leaky roof." (Judge Klein's Order and Notice of August 5, 2003, attachment, appended to Order to Show Cause at Exhibit A.)
The evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that respondents failed to correct conditions in the DHPD vacate order and, therefore, that respondents violated the court's August 2003 order. Respondents' failure was wilful, contumacious, and undertaken in a manner calculated to and which did impede and prejudice DHPD's right to enforce housing standards to preserve housing free from unsafe and unhealthy conditions. (See HMC § 27-2002.) Respondents are found guilty of civil and criminal contempt, and a judgment for civil penalties is entered against them, all as explained below.

The Background of this Litigation
The proceeding underlying this motion for penalties and contempt began as a tenant-initiated Housing Part (HP) proceeding for repairs to 2649 Frederick Douglass Boulevard brought by petitioner Melvin Allen by order to show cause returnable on June 10, 2003. While the case was pending, DHPD and DOB issued vacate orders, both dated late July 2003. Judge Klein then held a three-day trial that concluded on August 5, 2003, with an order requiring respondents to correct the violations in seven days. The corporation was not originally a named respondent, but respondent Rosenblatt added it by stipulation on June 10, 2003. Respondent Golia also had not been a respondent named in the original caption, but he was added as a respondent in the body of the August 2003 order to correct. Contending that seven days was not enough to correct the violations, respondent corporation sought in a motion dated August 25, 2003, to renew Judge Klein's August 5 order. Judge Klein denied the motion. (See Decision and Order of Sept. 11, 2003.)
In the meantime, DHPD moved by order to show cause for civil penalties and contempt, returnable on September 11, 2003. The motion was adjourned for lengthy periods and tried over several days when, on May 5, 2004, Judge Klein dismissed the penalties and contempt motion against Golia because of improper service. (See Decision and Order of May 5, 2004.) Judge Klein found that the moving papers were served only on an attorney, Lee M. Nigen, Esq., who did not represent Golia, (id. at 3-4), although Nigen now represents Golia. Judge Klein also dismissed for improper service the motion for criminal contempt against Rosenblatt and the corporation. (See id. at 4.) After finding that DHPD failed to introduce into evidence his underlying order of August 5, 2003, Judge Klein then dismissed without prejudice, in June 2004, the remainder of the civil-penalty and contempt motion. (See Decision and Order of June 4, 2004, at 1-2.)

.....

Now therefore, judgment in the amount of $155,500 is granted in favor of DHPD and against respondents Stacy Rosenblatt, Peter Golia, and the 2649 Frederick Douglass Realty Corporation and against the subject premises of 2649 Frederick Douglass Boulevard for its block and lot number; and DHPD shall have immediate execution thereon. ($155,500 = $151,750 in civil penalties $250 for civil contempt for each of the three respondents $1000 in criminal contempt for each of the three respondents.)

And it is further ordered that a certified copy of this order shall be delivered to the sheriff of the City of New York or the sheriff of any county within the state of New York, and such sheriff shall serve upon respondent Peter Golia a certified copy of this order, and such sheriff shall forthwith and without further process take the body of respondent Peter Golia and commit him to civil, city, or county jail in New York County, or in any adjacent county, where he shall be held for his aforesaid criminal contempt for a definite period of 10 days; and for an additional period of time not to exceed 10 days, until he has paid his aforesaid criminal-contempt fine of $1000.
This opinion is the court's decision, order, judgment, and decree.

Read the whole decision: http://nyslip.westgroup.com/
Anna
 
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